North Walsham preparing for first match of new season
- Credit: Hywel Jones
After what seems to have been an incredibly short break, competitive rugby for the 2018-19 season gets under way at Scottow on Saturday, when Watford-based Fullerians provide the opposition.
With the visitors having been in London One North for just two seasons, there is very little history between the clubs, but both had what can best be described as an average campaign with mid-table finishes, with the Vikings three places closer to the top than their opponents.
In their head-to-head encounters the Vikings came out well on top in the away fixture, 36-14, but a less-than-impressive home game ended in a disappointing 15-15 draw.
New Head of Rugby Johnny Marsters, making his first foray into coaching, has elicited a good response from the players in pre-season, and whilst not driving them hard, has kept a good momentum in both training and pre season matches.
Only one member of last season's squad, second row Todd Scotland, has left, but he will soon be followed by the influential Josh Brown, both heading home to the Southern Hemisphere. Prop Acky Downing's appearances will be governed by his work commitments.
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On the plus side, outside half Matt Hodgson returns after a season out following surgery for a cruciate ligament injury.
A bunch of new recruits will also boost the playing strength. Flanker Dan Bird, making a big step up from Swaffham, has worked hard in pre-season and will be pushing for a place as will lock Australian Matt Travers.
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Second row lock Jack Parker, just 18, having played Colts rugby at Wymondham, will, along with 'home bred' youngsters George Masdin, George Isbell and Michael Mulhall, have caught Masters' eye.
The Raiders, who do not start their season proper until next week when they will travel to Diss with the Vikings, will have a full blown game against Fullerians 2nd XV.
Kick-off will be as usual at 3pm all through the season.
Diss face a daunting first match at Colchester, who won 20 for their 26 fixtures last season to finish third in London One North. Promoted Diss finished 51 points behind them in 11th position so will need to perform to their best to stand a chance of getting anything out of the game.