We sat down with Caldy Director of Rugby Gareth Davies to get his thoughts on how the season is unfolding across the senior squad and firstly his perspective on what could be a pivotal month of February for Caldy’s 1st xv beginning with this Saturday’s home match against 3rd placed Sedgley Park.
The win away at Otley was the first of 4 very difficult fixtures in February for Caldy. This week it is 3rd placed Sedgley Park at home on Saturday. Are you preparing any differently for these games?
“With the possible exception of perhaps Scunthorpe, who have struggled for a variety of reasons since they gained promotion last year, every team in this league can beat every other team.”
“We prepare as thoroughly as we can for each and every game. We will not be changing anything for this week’s home match against Sedge or for the following two away matches against Fylde and Sedge again, or the final home match in February against Scunthorpe.”
“On paper these 3 games do look to be the toughest of the season, but we have recently had hugely competitive matches against Luctonians, Hull and Otley all of which are at the wrong end of the table and trying to pull clear of relegation. You cannot do anything other than prepare thoroughly and be physically and mentally ready for every fixture in this league. Any other approach will almost always result in a loss no matter which team you are playing.”
20 wins out of 20 fixtures for the 1st xv and 17 wins from 17 for the 2nd xv is a brilliant record so far this season. How has this success been achieved?
“Obviously, the players have a lot to do with that! but the main catalyst for success has been the coaching group and the support staff. We decided to take a different direction at the end of last season, with a new coaching group under the leadership of Head Coach Matt Cairns.”
“It is working out far better than I anticipated, which is down to their thoroughness and hard work and the chemistry between them all.”
“They are a young and relatively inexperienced coaching group, but they are all extremely professional in their preparation and cohesive outlook. The senior playing squad has completely bought in to what the coaching group are looking to achieve. That unity of purpose is reflected in the culture we are striving for at Caldy which is what rugby and teamwork should be all about.”
At the start of the season what were your objectives for Caldy, and have they changed now we are 20 wins in?
“National league rugby is as good as it gets outside the fully professional Premiership and Championship. However, Caldy is a very small club by National League standards and our objectives are maybe slightly different to the bigger clubs in the National Leagues.”
“Caldy is very much about our players and our teams being as good as they can be. We haven’t gone the dual registered loan/player route used by most clubs in National 1. We want our own players to represent us and our community because that is what is important to us and means most to us.”
“We dropped out of National 1 last season because in truth our squad of players with National league experience was too thin and we didn’t cope well when the injuries came.”
“One of our principle objectives this season was to ensure that we gave our 2nd xv, which is our development team, all the support we could so they would all be ready for National League rugby when called upon. I am hugely proud of their achievements this year which have been remarkable. We are well on the way to developing a bigger pool of talent capable of competing at National League level.”
What has pleased you most in how the season has developed so far?
“When you are in a happy place it is often a little difficult to identify specific events or landmarks that have got you there. However, it is perhaps easier to see what could have gone wrong and hasn’t!”
“The big changes we made at the end of last season to the coaching set up and in the support staff could have spectacularly imploded, but they have worked out hugely better than I expected. The personalities within the coaching group are very different.”
“Matt Cairns’ experience as a player at the top level of the game is a huge plus. His clear leadership, analytical and communication skills together with good man management abilities sets the standard for everything”.
“The three coaches supporting him have very good all-round coaching abilities but each of them has their own ‘Superpower’.”
‘The Innovator’ - Andrew Soutar.
“Sooty has a brilliant rugby brain. Whether he is on or off the pitch he sees things most don’t. He brings a huge x factor right across the senior squad and he has been the driving force behind the 2nd xv’s remarkable form this season and last.”
‘The Motivator’ - Christian Jones
“Christian Jones must be one of the most positive guys in rugby. I wouldn’t put it past him to be able to motivate our vets’ team to take on Rosslyn Park’s 1st xv …….and win!”
‘The Cool One’ - Richard Vasey
“Rich has been a revelation. The players consider him to be just about the coolest guy in Planet Rugby. Unflappable but with razor sharp analysis, he is the Cray computer analysing each 1st xv match in real time, providing Matt Cairns with his strategic and tactical options on match day.”
What about the playing squad this season - how has it changed since last season?
“After relegation from National 1 most of last season’s squad stayed with us. We lost a couple of guys to retirement and moves away from the area, but we had a few new additions to the squad as well. This could have upset the balance in the squad but everyone who has come in has made a hugely important contribution.”
“Most prominent of the new guys have been Adam Aigbokhae and Cameron Davies. Adam who previously had a few seasons at Caldy before he left us to go south, last season was with Sale FC. Adam has made a stellar contribution this season. Cam came to us from RGC and he has been both a brilliant player and character for us as well.”
I know you don’t like singling out individuals for special praise and recognition but if we push you who would it be?
“That is both difficult and easy at the same time. There are a lot of players and coaching staff who are making a very positive difference and it would be easy to pick one of them. But without our sponsors who keep the lights on nothing could be achieved so I could also pick one of them.
However, for me the person who most deserves the recognition but rarely gets it is Gary Sanders. He ensures home or away all the logistical aspects of the players’ match day preparation, kit, tape, dressing room etc is right all the time, every time.”
“Without guys like Gary, Caldy rugby club just couldn’t function at National League level.”
What are your goals for the remainder of the season?
“Currently we have used 30 players in the 1st xv squad. I would really like that number to be somewhere between 35-40 by the end of the season”
If you had a magic wand what would you like to improve at Paton Field?
“Everyone in rugby knows about our little wooden shack. It probably was at its best just after the war……..,the Boer War not the 2nd World War, but it’s home and if we can work within its confines I am happy that the opposition are being reasonably treated as well.”
“The biggest difference I would like to see at Paton Field is a larger and noisier support, beginning this Saturday against Sedge!
“When we go to Wharfedale and Luctonians and in years gone by to Stourbridge, the home crowd was hugely passionate and partisan. Which I think is just brilliant.”
“People on the Wirral are just too polite and our normal supporters at Caldy definitely are!”
“I would like Paton Field to have that welcoming but at the same time intimidating factor for the opposition. I think our rugby deserves it.”
If at the end of this season Caldy were to gain promotion up to National 1 how would your approach change next season?