MOST Doncaster Knights supporters will get their first look at Brett Davey’s 2012-13 Championship squad in action at Castle Park in Saturday’s pre-season friendly at home to Cambridge.
As has been the tradition in recent seasons, the club’s new-look squad were put through their paces at Castle Park last Thursday night by director of rugby Davey and new head coach Glen Kenworthy in a public training session prior to a ‘meet the players’ function at the club.
“It was a pretty low key session,” Kenworthy told The Star. “The boys have been flogged during pre-season and we also had our first pre-season game at Newcastle on the Saturday.”
Despite long spells of wet weather since the squad reported back for pre-season, the New Zealander said it hadn’t affected the club’s preparation.
“The pitches at the ground drain so well so we have been able to train normally most day,” he said.
Although the popular second-rower, who had several spells in the top flight with Rotherham Titans, hung up his boots at the end of last season, he has continued to train.
“I suppose you could say that I’m ticking over,” he said. “It’s not for the rugby it’s just a case of not wanting to be one of those people who pile on a lot of weight when they stop playing.”
Kenworthy, who also acted as forwards coach in his last season as a player, was promoted to head coach at the end of the 2011-12 campaign after officially announcing his retirement at the age of 37.
“It has been hard not preparing for a season as I’ve always done and at times I’ve wanted to put the boots back on again,” he said. “But at other times I’ve just been glad that I’ve retired from playing.
“I’m just glad that I’m able to give something back to the club and I’m enjoying my new role in the coaching set-up. I generally work with the forwards and the set-pieces and Brett and centre Tom Luke do the skills and work with the backs, and winger Dougie Flockhart is the fitness and conditioning coach.”
Knights lost 52-17 against a strong Newcastle team in the first of their three warm-up games at the weekend, rallying in the second half after trailing 38-3 at the break.
Neither Davey nor Kenworthy are reading too much into that result given that it was the much-changed squad’s first outing
“We feel that we’ve put a decent squad together, though we’ve gambled on a few players, based on how we want to play this season,” said Kenworthy. “But you never know how the team will do until you’ve seen them in action. We’ll know more in two or three weeks’ time.”
Kenworthy remembers the days when no-one relished a trip to Castle Park and wants to turn back the clock,
“We want to go back a few years in terms of how we play this season,” he said. “We want to be strong in the forwards and dominant at the set-pieces.
“We also want to try and play some rugby when the time is right.
“If we get the results that we are looking for then hopefully we’ll attract a few more spectators this season - especially with switching to Friday night for home games.”
Looking ahead to next season, which kicks-off on September 1, Kenworthy says that relegated Newcastle will be the team to beat.
“They’ve got to be the favourites but they’ll be aware that teams will be gunning for them every week,” he said.
With the club operating on a much smaller budget then most of their rivals, Kenworthy adopts a sensible stance on Knights’ prospects.
“Obviously we’ll be aiming to try and make the (top-four) play-offs,” he said. “But the league gets tougher every year and I’d be happy to finish in the top half of the table and do well in the British & Irish Cup. It would certainly be nice to win some silverware,”
Knights will still lack several players currently working on their rehabilitation on Saturday including last season’s captain, Chris Hallam and back-rower Andy Boyde.