Rotherham Titans’ hooker Charlie Maddison has praised the impact of the club’s new head coach Andy Key.
Key, who was director of rugby at Yorkshire Carnegie when the club were promoted to the Aviva Premiership in 2009, arrived at Clifton Lane in May following Justin Burnell’s departure.
He has overseen a mass overhaul of the playing squad, which has involved 18 new arrivals. Key’s new-look side have now been in pre-season training for eight weeks.
“It’s been hard, which obviously you expect,” said Maddison. “Andy’s made it a real target that we want to be one of the fittest teams in the league, if not the fittest. I was carrying an injury from the back end of last season so I’ve been working hard with rehab. I’m back into full training now.”
A culture of hard work has been instilled from the top-down, says Maddison.
“He’s a good bloke (Key) to be honest. He’s normal, down to earth, which suits Rotherham. That’s kind of what Rotherham is in general - it’s a down to earth place with down to earth people. He’s here to work hard and do well.
“I think that’s reflecting in the way we train and the players he’s kept and the players he’s brought in - we’re here to work hard. In terms of coaching, it’s a very tight group and maybe the tightness of their group is reflecting in the team as well, which is good.”
Although there may be some raised eyebrows over the high turnover of players this summer, the 26-year-old feels it was necessary after two successive bottom three finishes.
“We had quite a similar turnover the year before as well, obviously it’s not ideal but it was needed and again it was needed this year,” said Maddison. “The new arrivals seem really good blokes.
“We were put through quite a lot of stuff last year and I think maybe some cracks showed in terms of the tightness of the group throughout. The coaching set-up has just brought a brand new lease of life to everybody throughout the club.”
Despite a well-documented difficult year for the club last season, Maddison enjoyed personal success and was named supporter’s player of the season.
Since his arrival in 2015, he has established himself as one of the club’s most important players. However, personal achievements have been somewhat overshadowed by “two tough years”.
“Things like that maybe get put on the back-burner a little bit because everything else isn’t going so well,” he said.
“I was very proud to receive the award I got, but it is tainted a little bit to some degree.
“It’s a completely different atmosphere now, different coaching set-up, a whole new squad. So you just have to move on from it. There’s no point dwelling on it because it’s done now.
“It’s just about focusing on the boys we’ve got here now and what we’re trying to do.”
Improvement next season is a priority. But, despite a good start to life under the new coach, Maddison and his teammates aren’t getting over-ambitious with their expectations.
“With such a new team and obviously things that have gone on in the last couple of years, we just want to establish Rotherham again as a good championship club,” he said.
“That’s obviously at the forefront of our minds and we want to start playing some good rugby again.
“In terms of specific goals, I wouldn’t say we really have any in terms of where we want to finish.
“Just bring back a smile to the club in general. Rotherham haven’t been a club that people want to come and watch.”