09:09AM, Thursday 28 April 2022
Maidenhead lost their final two games of the season, narrowly at home to champions Sevenoaks - where the unfortunate bounce of the ball probably cost them victory – and 52-22 at North Walsham on Saturday.
However, the defeats couldn't tarnish a season of great improvement and there’s plenty to be encouraged about – not just for the first team but across the whole club – as Maids look ahead to new challenges on the horizon.
The club is set for another sideways switch, this time from the London & South East Premier Division to the Regional 1 B Division, thanks to another RFU rejig, with the four leagues at Maidenhead’s level being broken apart to make six.
They’ll come up against sides they've met this season, including Wimbledon and Havant, and will renew acquaintances with old rivals from the South West leagues such as Oxford Harlequins, Banbury and Bracknell.
And, whereas this season has been a massive learning curve, not just for the players but also the coaching team, director of rugby Myke Parrott is quietly confident the first team can hit the ground running and be extremely competitive from the outset.
They finished this season eighth, having been as low as 13th at one point, 15 points behind Wimbledon who could be one of their biggest rivals for promotion in the new league.
Looking ahead to the challenges ahead, with the new season set to kick off in September, Parrott said: “You look at Sevenoaks, Dorking, and North Walsham as well. All three of those sides in my opinion are far better than any side we’ve played in the South West Premier in the last three or four seasons, with the exception of maybe Dings Crusaders who went up three or four years ago. But apart from that those three sides would have battered everyone in that league.
“We could have gone up in our last full seasons, when Barnstaple won, and we could have ended up in National 2, but it would have been tough.
“You look at Barnstaple, who won that league, they're bottom of the table in National 2, whereas we now know what the next level looks like, having played Sevenoaks and Dorking and North Walsham, because those sides will go up and do well.
“They might not win those leagues, but if they keep the players, they’ve got they’re going to be very competitive.
“That's a common theme from the London Premier in the last three or four seasons, lots of teams have gone on and through into National 1.
“It’s a good grounding for the next level and we feel that, although it was a parallel move, I look back on it now as a promotion and a big step up in standard and quality. It’s been great for us. It was my first season as director of rugby, and I’ve learnt so much on and off the pitch. Yes, it was tough at the start but long term I think we'll be in a much stronger position because of it.”
Pre-season is set to get underway on June 14 with a squad meet. The club will then host a sevens tournament at the club on June 1, while an awards night, where players, coaches and club staff will be recognised for their efforts this season, will take place on May 13.
Maids will get back to playing pre-season friendlies from August 6, 13 and 20 and the plan is for one of those pre-season friendlies to take place away from Braywick Park against a side up north, with an overnight social.
Visitors to Burnham Park Hall on Monday May 16 can undergo a ‘living with dementia experience’ as part of National Dementia Action Week.