North Walsham hoping to build on the progress during 2016/17 campaign
- Credit: Archant
'Encouraging, pleasing, enjoyable' are the words that immediately come into James Brooks' mind when reflecting on his first season in charge at North Walsham.
'My job is to challenge the players and provide the support for them to improve,' he said. 'They responded well; I couldn't have asked for more.'
There were five more wins than 2015-16 and a two place rise to fourth in London One North. Supporters saw a more resilient side, defensively stronger, better at taking their chances and closing games out. Scoring 40pc more points they earned 16 try scoring bonus points, a 60pc improvement and conceded four or more tries only four times.
Brooks was particularly encouraged by performances against the top three. 'Only Chingford beat us convincingly and the players' reaction was appropriate – that was not going to happen again.' The Vikings got their revenge in the return and ran Brentwood and champions Tring close. 'Tring's coaches regarded us as the best team they'd played.' There were other memorable performances: Thurrock at home, a first success at Letchworth and victories on dank days at Fullerians and Ruislip.
Form improved as the season progressed. In contrast to 2015-16 when they won just five of the last 14, this time they won 12.
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'As the season advanced we were able to transfer into matches the patterns of play we'd been working on during training,' added Brooks. 'We want to play expansive rugby when conditions permit.'
Brooks is looking for the team's progression to continue next season. A larger squad to improve competition for places and guard against injuries is a priority. Currently only Jono Lawson and Ethan Benney are known to be leaving, both returning to New Zealand; Lawson was Player of the Year and leaves a big gap in the second row. The club are committed to developing local talent so, whilst casting his net wide, Brooks is keen to hear from local players wanting to play at a higher level.
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'Jordan Mustard moved up three leagues from Swaffham, so it can be done. North Walsham is a very welcoming club and they would be joining a great bunch of players.'