Looking ahead - head coach Lee Goodall
NEWBURY BLUES are ready to fly the flag for amateurism when they kick off their first season in the new South West Premier League at Bournemouth on Saturday.
Their return to level five rugby follows one near-miss and one successful play-off campaign that has hoisted Blues above the level they slid to back when the two teams last met.
They now to return to face semi-professional teams, boosted by experience of all levels, while Blues will again be relying upon their home-grown talent with a sprinkling of players from around the area, all with the same thing in common.
“I’m proud to be able to say that we are the only team not paying anyone,” said head coach Lee Goodall. “We are truly amateur, and for me that’s the challenge.
“There are teams like Exmouth that have come down from the National League and a lot of teams are bringing in ex-Premiership players.
“But the challenge for us is to prove that you do not need to buy a squad to be successful in this division.
“I think our fitness levels will be as good as any in this league, and our skill levels will be as good as anybody’s.
“But when you go up a step, it does mean you are facing bigger and quicker players and we have to be realistic. We will lose more games this season that in any of our past two season, but the focus is on let’s go out and give it a good shot.”
They go to a Bournemouth side led by former Basingstoke coach Will Croker and which has recruited carefully over the summer, leading to a 76-7 beating of Blues’ old opponents Witney in pre-season.
“They are a sustained level five club,” said Goodall, “and it’s going to be a good chance for us to see where we are.”
Blues have whittled their squad down to the final 18 for the trip, which will also see the Stags travel to take on their Bournemouth counterparts. The main absentees are back row Alex Millar and back Josh Bartlett, still recovering from a recent minor motoring accident.
“But we have an abundance of cover,” said Goodall. “This is exciting for all of us, and if you are not excited by it, then something is amiss.
“It’s all systems go!”