Friday, May 3, 2013

Back to square one?

Right, well first of all, apologies to everyone for not having posted for a while!  I had a lot of people asking me when I was going to write again!  Well, as most of you probably know by now, Malindi didn’t make it to the provincials for fifteens this year despite high expectations.  This was quite a disappointment for all of us, but to be honest with you it was expected after the poor level of  (especially physical) preparation by the boys this year.

We have been having some issues with this group of players, which was extremely surprising to me, but I’m used to it now!  It seems like this group, especially (and both sadly and ironically) the senior players, feels like it is simply entitled to win and is not willing to put in the extra work necessary to win.  It’s true that there were some unusual circumstances.  The elections created a tricky break just before the “counties” which were generally holidays and the change to 15s in the first term but all the other teams contended with this as well, so this is no excuse.  We seem to have had a ridiculous amount of injuries, and players just didn’t show up to training, especially after particularly physically challenging training sessions.

I really thought we had the motivation part of the equation figured out since we clearly showed the players in past years that intense preparation and commitment equals success and success means traveling and fun.  But somehow we came across a group of boys (many of whom I’m training for the third and fourth years this year) who just don’t want to put that extra effort in and then blame others when they lose!

St George's ready to kill us!
So basically, we showed up to the Counties, thrashed the first team we played (I can’t remember some team from Kilifi) something like 60-0 (all scores reported here are approximate as I can’t remember them anymore! ) and then played St Georges (arguably, like us, perennial favourites now with probably Shimo la tewa and Waa) who were massive!  It is hard for me to believe that most of their pack was under twenty years old (again sorry if I’m wrong, but their pack probably weighed at least twice ours).  We ended up playing quite well against them, held a 6-3 lead for a while after the first half and it looked like we could do quite well, but then our boys eventually ran out of steam and got thrashed I think something like 25-6.  They were basically 3 times fitter than we were, and this was something that I had warned the boys about before the tournament.  For maybe the first time ever in my time coaching however, I wasn’t disappointed with the loss, because St Georges was clearly better than us.  It was somehow soothing! J  Congrats St. Georges!  Their Coach mentioned in passing that they had entered some sort of senior club championship and had benefited greatly form the experience and from a number of friendly games against teams in nearby Machakos which I presume has closer to an up-country rugby culture (can’t be worse than on the coast!).

Malindi High... 
At this point I thought we were out of the tournament but there was a semi final to play, and we played our old rivals Galana.  Galana was not previously a strong rugby school, but pretty much since I started coaching they were bolstered by the arrival of quite an excellent (I think Luya) coach called Odima who had previously raised the bar at rival Barani and then had switched schools.  Apparently Galana had beaten us (while I was away) last year in the 15s district tournament but this year had decided to compete in their own district (Magarini) and not against us in the Malindi Championships… which begs the question, why weren’t their two spots for us in the provincials last year if we were representing two districts? 

Waweru looking crushed
At any rate, we expected Galana to have strong backs and a weak pack, but they were the opposite.  They again were much fitter than us and better disciplied, regardless we held a 3-0 lead into the dying seconds and then somehow a player took a long throw off a lineout, ran through our whole team from half way between midfield and the 22 and scored a try to make it 7-3.  We were crushed.  We showed up to the 3nrd place game and won that 7-0 against competition that didn’t have enough jerseys or boots… I was very disappointed and said as much to the players after the game.  I reminded them that their goal was to win two games at the nationals, and they had not done enough to make it out of the counties (granted, probably Galana and St Georges and us would have made the top four in the province and if fact, St Georges ended up winning the provincial tournament).  But surely they needed to work much harder if they wanted to achieve what past teams had achieved.  Two years ago our goal was to make it to the nationals and we did and last year it was to win a game at nationals and we did that for the 7s tournament.

The boys training for 7s on their home pitch
We still have the 7s tournament to prepare for, and we are, but the preparations (although slightly improving) are nowhere near where I had hoped they would be.  I am still extremely disappointed because for me, 7s is not rugby and I would prefer that we excelled at 15s, but the boys want another go at it, and I’ve told them that I will only train them if they improve their fitness, and it seems like they have done so.  We have an extremely quick group this year (and many players with varying skills) which lends itself to the sevens game, so you never know, if they learn from their lesson, they might just win the provincials again this year.  I hope so!
Super Chibudu!

On the bright side we have had quite a response from the form 1s and 2s.  Good old Chibudu has been showing up every day to coach them and has been doing a great job motivating them.  So with a bit of luck will have a great new crop to work with next year!  Up Malindi high! :)

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