Monday, February 27, 2017

Malindi High wins 2017 district Championship

I am very happy to be coaching Malindi High again.  We had a great tournament again this year, we played a round robin and won all of our games in the tournament.  We only conceded 6 points in 5 games which by any measure is always impressive, and while the team had huge depth issues at the start of the tournament, we managed to get good game time to a good 15 players who had never contested an official match before the tournament.

I particularly like this group.  They have a drive and desire to learn which I haven’t seen from previous teams.  They are probably the fittest any Malindi team has ever been at this point.  I hope they can continue to build on that. Usually, we crash and burn in the County tournament and we use that experience as a wake up call to get the boys fit for the 7s tournaments, and sometimes they respond sometimes they don’t. 

As mentioned before, we were particularly thin in experience this year.  As you may have heard, Malindi was one of the schools that suffered from school burning incidents last year, there appeared to be some kind of a trend throughout boarding schools in Kenya.  In Malindi they burnt the library.  To my knowledge, no rugby players were involved, but as a result of the subsequent school closure, many students, especially form 3s  (who would have been form 4s this year) were sent to other schools.  The result is that we only have 4 form fours in our squad this year and many of the players that had experience were not back and are going to schools that don’t have rugby.  An additional challenge is that the indiscipline at the school has given ammunition to the “rugby haters” amongst the teachers at the school, thus restricting our ability to have the necessary amount of time with the team.  There have also been a plethora of inspirational talks, meetings etc etc that cut into time previously allotted to games.

We have taken the lemons and made lemonade. We used the discipline issue to tighten the discipline within the team.  I came down hard on senior players involved in minor incidents or who were not coming for training.  One player, a potential star was cut completely from the team for missing practice without telling anyone.  We made a point of cutting out prima donnas and we have pushed extremely hard on the physical preparation and as a result we are probably better prepared than ever before and we probably set foundations for success in years to come.  I really want the rugby players to be leaders in the school, both academically and morally.  In the past, I had teachers laud the team and say that the players stopped indiscipline, ideally I would like that to continue!

Our team is Form 2 heavy and thus quite small.  So we kept it simple.  We got fit, and ensured that we protect the ball as a priority.  Also, as is the hallmark of our teams, we tackle like beasts!  It means we are quite one dimensional, but I’ll take it, and the results were there, although the score lines aren’t as good as I’d hoped.

Malind 6 – Barani 3
Barani played well, were the only opposition with any shape at all and posed a threat but the boys played there game and pulled it off.  We missed a number of kicks though which is a problem we may have solved. Coached well by Koki, a Malindi RFC fullback who schooled at Muyeye.

Malindi 27 – Gede 3
The guys got all excited as predicted and started running sideways to score tries.  2nd half saw many under experienced players get a chance on the pitch.

Malindi 6 – Mida 0
I played essentially a second team to try people out, the team was a bit shaken, but they got it in the end.  Scoreline should have been much higher but lack of finishing, and the boys took a bruising because they took to Mida’s unpolished game and tried to challenge them at it.

Malindi 20 – Langobaya 0
Played the first team in the first half and then subbed as much as possible.  By now we had a number of key injuries to key players from all the banging against unskilled teams, so 2nd string inventions at fullback, and throughout the backs and in the back row.  Paid off in experience for young guys.  Watch out next year!

Malindi 6 – Muyeye 0
We were bracing for a bruising in this one and we got it.  Muyeye is always a tough team and they were coached by one of the Malindi RFC guys Reagan who schooled there.  I played as much of a first team as I could given injuries to Fly half Chikoto and Fullback Jimmy J.  We basically smashed the ball down their throats and then they figured out that we were taking the ball on while standing still and they started catching us behind the gain line.  Lots to work on!

I’m looking forward to these counties, not quite sure what will happen, but I think we will be better prepared than we have been.  Sadly, we only have one week before the county tournament and it is the mid-term holiday week.  If the players turn up for training, we may have a chance, if not, likely we won’t win a game in the tournament, there is still a lot to work on.  Waweru, the coach of the team is extremely committed and looks hopeful that we may go far, so I still have hope.  Chibudu has been helping out putting in systems on defence and I hope that will continue as we prepare for the next tournament.  I would like the guys to improve a bit on their rush defence and jackaling as is the fashion these days. 

Odima, the Galana Coach refereed one of our games and later told me that if we played like that, our team would be smashed by his and Garashi.  He somehow has managed to send two teams from the Magarini district tournament, normally only one team is allowed per district.

I would like for the Union to arrange for warm up tournaments before.  There is zero investment in Under 18 rugby in the coast.  There are so many schools without teams, it would be so easy just to give each high school 5 balls and have someone visit them once a week for a month or something, and do the same in primary schools. Then you would have a lot of rugby players and later on rugby fans!  My two shillings!