Written by Zack Wilson
Photo by Sheffield Forgers
Sheffield Forgers, sponsored by Everything Rugby League, are gearing up for the second season of the club’s revival.
Last season was a real challenge for the club, as they were placed in the Yorkshire Men’s League Division Four.
The standard was a little high for a new club finding its feet, and the Forgers were on the end of some heavy beatings. They did not win a game all season.
They never ducked a fixture, though, and completed a full season of games, despite the challenges.
Their perseverance saw them receive a nomination for the YML Club of the Year award from the RFL.
Head coach Chris Coates did win the award for Division Four Coach of the Year, a testament to the work that he has personally put into the club.
Everything Rugby League caught up with Coates over the Christmas period to discuss the clubs’ preparations for 2019.
“The season that’s just gone was an eye-opener for a lot of players,” he said.
“There were a lot of big results went against us. A lot of the players didn’t realise the level of intensity that was required, even in Division Four of the Yorkshire League, to play rugby league.
“Some of them were entirely new to rugby, some were rugby union players, some were former players who drifted away from rugby league and had come back.
“The game has moved on. There were a lot of players who weren’t prepared and hadn’t been exposed to the sport for some years, and we came up against a lot of experienced players.
“It’s tough, because as a brand new club, you would expect to put in with other brand new teams, but you can’t always have that.
“So we came up against teams that were experienced. I think there were a lot of suspect transfers that weren’t really kept an eye on.
“A couple of times we were playing against ex-pros, Challenge Cup winners, ex-internationals and the like.
“People weren’t really paying attention to it.
“It should be more obvious that when the league gets a bit skewed, and you see results that tend to blow out, maybe you need to look at the structure of the league and whether teams should be moved into different divisions.”
Thoughts are now on the 2019 season, with many players returning for another crack with the Forgers.
Last season’s losing streak means that Coates is focusing on showing players what they need to do to avoid so many beatings, and win games.
The spine of the team is looking stronger this season, something which Coates sees as vital.
“The spine of the team guides you around the park,” he said.
“After that, you can look at everyone else, but if you’ve not got a good core group of players who embody what the club wants to be, then you’re always going to struggle to make it stick.
“Last year, it was more of a case of finding out who will embody our club.”
In 2019, Coates and his management team are readying themselves to take things to a higher level.
“We had an interesting preseason meeting, where we went into real detail about what was expected of players,” he said.
“Last year, there wasn’t really much of an expectation of what players were going to do, it was more of a let’s get together and play the game type of mentality.
“For your first season, that’s what you want, you don’t want too much pressure on people who just want to play.
“But this year, we started the conversation seriously to start with. So it was: this is what we expect of you as players, this is what you can expect of me as a coach, this is what you expect of the club, and this is what the club expect of you.
“So it’s obvious from the off that we’re not going to just lie down. It’s going to be a lot different this season.
“It was important to set that out early.”
Another thing that started early was preseason training, with the emphasis placed on specialist conditioning, especially after the baking hot summer we experienced last season.
With new conditioning systems in place, plus a gym working alongside the club, Forgers should be a much fitter and stronger team mentally in 2019.
“It’s down to the players,” said Coates.
“Our aim is to have a winning season, to win more games than we lose.
“You’ve got to go in hoping to win every game. Preseason is about putting that toughness in place so that they believe in themselves.”
*If you would like to get involved with the Forgers, contact Chris Coates via their facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/forgersrlfc/
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