Doncaster Knights could prove a surprise package in this season’s Greene King Championship.
And given their track record under Clive Griffiths of upsetting the odds, Championship rivals would be foolish to dismiss their chances of finishing in the top half of the table despite flirting with relegation last season.
“We were favourites to go straight back down last season, just as people said we wouldn’t bounce straight back up the previous season, so we’ve defied the pundits for the last couple of years,” said the Welshman.
“It’s going to be even tougher this season with Ealing coming up. They’ve hoovered up a lot of good players and London Welsh have come down from the Premiership with a huge parachute payment, so they’ll be one of the fancied teams.
“Then you’ve got Bristol and London Scottish who have again thrown their money about and, of course, Yorkshire Carnegie,
“They’ve invested heavily in their squad and have signed Leeds Rhinos and England rugby league star Kevin Sinfield who will join them after fulfilling his Super League commitments.
“He’s a class player but it won’t be easy for him especially where they are going to play him and it will probably take him time to settle in.
“We’ve got London Welsh at home in our first game - which is probably a good time to catch them – and away games against Nottingham, who have proved a bit of a bogey team in recent years – and a derby at Rotherham, as well as Jersey at home.
“So we know it’s going to be tough but that would have been the case whoever we played in the first month.”
Griffiths went on record this time last season claiming that Knights would ‘give it a go’ in the B&I Cup.
He proved to be a man of his word and fielded strong teams at a time when some other coaches might have acted differently given the team’s league results.
“As far as I’m concerned you are in it to win it,” he said. “We enjoyed our run last year and it was fantastic that we had big crowds here at Castle Park in the knock-out stages.
“Unfortunately, Worcester brought their Class A game on the night in the final and the referee brought his Class B game, and we were blown away in the first 20 minutes by penalties and their good play – it was a combination of both,
“But no grumble; they were the best team on the day, But to reach the final and bring Worcester to Castle Park was an achievement in itself and had never been done before.
“We also did the double over Yorkshire Carnegie in the Championship for the first time, so there were quite a few firsts last season and new ground broken and our objective is to break new ground again and try and better the eight league wins.
“We lost nine league games in succession - though those defeats were interspersed with wins in the B&I Cup - but we ended the season well and finished 22 points clear of the relegation zone
“We could have finished even higher had we managed to turn some of those defeats into wins, which we could easily have done.
“We weren’t hammered in any of the games and the biggest defeat was at Nottingham in December. We didn’t even score a try that day and it was probably our poorest performance of the season.
“But, as I say, we never gave in and we only had two four-try bonus point defeats and that showed we generally defended well.
“We let ourselves down with ball in hand at times by not being clinical enough. That is something we’ve addressed in our recruitment.
“With no disrespect to such as Paul Roberts, who was outstanding both on and off the field, I think we’ve got more maturity at half-back this season and we’ve brought in two new scrum-halves and two new fly-halves.
“We’ve also got Ollie Stedman on board for the season, which is good news because the 8, 9 10 triangle was a priority.
“As I say, we’ve just got to get our attacking game right but it’s not as though we play boring rugby.
“We’ll again try to play entertaining rugby but if we have to score four tries from catch and drive plays from a lineout to win a game, we’ll also take that.
“We need to win more games than last season but even if we don’t win, we’ve got to come away with something.”