Birmingham & Solihull visitors on Saturday
As ever it has been an eventful summer at Webb Ellis Road, but thankfully not quite in the same vein as last year after the sad death of former coach Rob Walton, writes Player Coach Rob Dignum.
This is my fourth season as a Lion, none are dull, always with a plethora of change, something that we humans find difficult to handle.
Such is the nature of this club, however, as we continue to grow in our exciting time of rebuild... the memory of arriving at a council field just three summers ago with absolutely nothing has passed in the blink of an eye.
Three successive promotions later and with now five senior sides (Lions, Crusaders, Thirds, Colts and Lionesses) then you may forgive us if we take time to restock and find our feet.
Stand still? No such luck however! Directors and back room gods Kingy and Smithy (Steve King and Tony Smith) announced their retirement at the close of last season, as did captain and stalwart Ben Everton and Head Coach Wayne Mitchell is again coaching the Irish Exiles... add to this farewells to Murphy, Walton and McFredries, taking stock not an option therefore as there was some outward uncertainty as to Lions’ future.
Then along came possibly the best and most shrewd arrival in Lions proud history, no mean feat when listed amongst other former coaches: Shelford, Rendall, Turner, Back, Walton and Mitchell... welcome aboard Head Coach Dave ‘Aggy’ Addleton.
Aggy has played over 350 games for Coventry and coached the side for ten years since his retirement, in short, what he does not know about rugby ain’t worth knowing.
Aggy brings a hard, no nonsense edge, something very much needed during this current chapter of Lions growth; we are chasing our feet as we progress back up the leagues.
Now in Mids 2 you must have your house in order to be competitive as a team and moreover sustainable as a club; with Aggy on board, Rugby Lions is most definitely in safe hands.
Fresh off the back of Aggy’s arrival, pre-season training has been going great, numbers ranging either side of the 30 mark, some improvement on last season. All players should be commended on their lung bursting efforts since the beginning of July, impressive stuff indeed.
Linked to his arrival, his name simply drawing players, we would like to welcome four new signings for which the club as a whole are excited to see in action and will without doubt add to Lions’ ongoing success: greetings to Sam Herrington, Chris Wood, Steve Clarke and Andy Bowyer. Sam is a second row and is not small! He has played alongside Aggy and will without doubt add a great deal to the squad.
Similalrly, Woody brings excellent playing pedigree, a skilful back row player that will light up Lions’ season... it should be noted that both have more pace, with better hands than I have ever had!
Next Clarkey, who arrives as an exciting centre and takes on a Player Coach role also. Steve enjoyed a great season with Earlsdon, who made the play-offs and then he capped off last season with a successful County campaign also. Steve and wife Faye have just become the proud first-time parents of beautiful baby girl Dorothy and we would like to extend them both our congratulations.
And last but by no means least Andy. Andy is an electric full back who will be exciting to watch and will no doubt be lighting up the field this season.
If you thought it was all good news, well, then it is! Further good fortune, Lions favourite Dav Nurse also returns after time at Notts Uni. Dav is my unofficial third youngest brother and is a damn good player... an original Lion of 2013, he stood alongside me on that council park as a 17 year old; after a spell in Oz, followed up with England U19 trials and now being a long way from that teenager, he will make his mark on Lions season once again, of that I am quite sure.
So there are your coaches and players; finally welcome to ever presents Ron Everton and Dave Kimberley in their new roles, Masters in Charge of just about everything else, their involvement will be invaluable. A small but tight knit group, hell bent on keeping everything in check during yet another period of adjustment.
A year on from Rob’s tragic death, Lions season kicks of this Saturday with the Rob Walton Memorial Match against Birmingham & Solihull. ‘Yog’ used to play for Birmingham, indeed did so in the Brummies’ most famous game of their history when they toppled Gatland’s and Dallaglio’s 2003 European Champions Wasps. Birmingham currently ply their trade in National 3, some two leagues above Lions and interestingly are coached by another of Coventry´s former coaches. It will be a proud day for all involved playing in front of Yog’s family, similarly both sides showcasing their credentials in the build up to a fascinating new season.
Before it gets underway, however, happily I will be busy learning to run again after gaining a brand new ankle! I looked like front row material when I last played, five months out and frantically typing whilst on an all inclusive holiday, it does look like some sweaty months lie in wait for me! None sweatier than the weekend of August 19th, however, as every man and his dog from Lions are going to Bramcote Barracks to spend an entire weekend in the company of Army Physical Training Instructors, alongside team building activities and hitting the bar, of course.
So, forthcoming Lions dates as follows:
August 6th: Birmingham/Solihull (H)
August 13th: Market Bosworth (H)
August 19th: Army Base
September 3rd: County Cup
September 10th: First league game, Earlsdon (H)
If I said there was excitement and expectation in the air, this would be an understatement, yet again more change in one summer than most clubs endure in a decade... I have alluded to this many times however, it is indeed a wonderful time to be a Lion.
The usual haters on the outside looking in are already sharpening their knives and chucking rumours about in the hope that Lions might trip up, I have grown used to this now. This is a great club, full of wonderful people, the less wonderful being weaned out and we are again on the cusp of yet another very exciting season. I for one cannot wait.
Please get along this Saturday to pay respects to Rob Walton, it promises to be an exciting start to Lions’ latest campaign. Similarly, on the playing side, every man, woman, boy or girl whether experienced or otherwise will be made very welcome.
The Colts side (Under 18s) looks strong and will always welcome new faces. Lions seconds, returning to their more traditional name of Crusaders will be looking for further success after consecutive promotions.
Also, the club as a whole are overjoyed to field a third team as playing numbers continue to swell as we ride the crest of this very enjoyable and rewarding wave of current success.
In truth, this will be a tall order and I urge anyone that wants a game to please get in touch, if not, new chairman Jeff Nowill will spend yet more time having to play!
Ladies, your national finalists, the very successful Lionesses are equally receptive of new faces.
Any potential sponsors wishing to share in our success and be synonymous with our journey, please make yourselves known also! All queries, please call bar manager Sian at the club on (01788) 535246.
Thank you for all of your support of our fantastic club and the very best to all at the Lions this season, similarly to all local sides in their respective journeys also.