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JOSH WARD admitted it had been a frustrating campaign for Southend Saxons but insisted the club are heading in the right direction.
The Warners Bridge club looked on course to challenge for promotion from London One North following a consistent opening half to the season. However, patchy form persisting from the Christmas period saw the Saxons slip and despite seemingly steadying the ship, they found themselves floundering in sixth place when the campaign was brought to a premature conclusion due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nevertheless, Ward was keen to focus on positives as he looked towards the future.
“Looking back it’s been a frustratingly inconsistent season on the field, but importantly another step in the right direction holistically,” the Seasiders Director of Rugby explained to Yellow Sport.
“As a group – staff and players alike – we’ve never hidden our ambition to succeed and push on in our pursuit to regain National League status. It’s massively important to have high aspirations, it keeps you driven, hungry and connected and at times this season it’s been evident, we’ve played some outstanding rugby.”
Ward spoke of the depth developed amongst the squad, adding:
“Lots of clubs talk about their ‘1’s’ and ‘2’s’ players. We have a huge emphasis on our squad – as a result, our midweek training numbers have not dropped below 31 all season. we have two teams that represent our Saxons squad each week.
“The Priors results have rocketed this season – a play-off place and an Essex Cup semi-final spot. We’ve had several boys represent both teams, demonstrating growing quality in-depth and for me, this is going to be pivotal if we are going to be successful.”
Ward confirmed that the clubs’ ambitions matched his own, stating: “Will we be successful? I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think we could be.
“When I took on the role I think it’s fair to say the club had been run over, hit for six, all of those different figures of speech. It was a time of change and a great opportunity to start again, roll up our sleeves and get to work. For that to happen, I’m a firm believer you need good people and people who care. The commitment and support we’ve had, not just from off-field personnel, but senior guys who stuck by the club like Vaughany and a few others is admirable. Our recruitment is specific and always accurate, we want good people who are going to buy in if people don’t, they go.
“It’s important to me that sometimes people that care the most are people who may have been at the club previously and that’s where we’ve thrived off the likes of Nik Grier, Harry Branch Branch, TA and Sid returning.
“Blending these guys experience with the incredibly exciting youth coming up and through and quality senior acquisitions we’ve made to impact the group over recent times such as Lloydy and Joel, we’re on the right track.”
With stable surroundings now evolving on a steady foundation, Ward insisted Warners Bridge is a good place to play rugby and with one or two subtle tweaks and successful and stable future awaits the 150-year-old club.
“As a club we want to be innovative, unique and different, supplying people with an environment and culture that promotes hard work and success, encourages relationships to grow old and new but ultimately have fun along the way on and off the field.
“We care for the person as opposed to the rugby player, taking time to understand what makes them who they are, family involvement and so on. It’s important.
“We started the season in great shape, controlled games well and scored some wonderful team tries. Despite a few off-key performances, we went into December against North Walsham in second place off the back of five wins. Despite coming up short against Walsham, the boys were well in the fight for 65 minutes before a couple of costly moments left us short.
“From there as a group, I think there are three or four fixtures that we’ve not turned up for and that’s the difference between mid-table and the top.”
“Have we underachieved on the field in London One North this season? Of course, that’s the honest truth. It’s not doom and gloom it’s a learning moment and that’s important in anyone’s development, being honest and reflective to identify areas of need. We don’t want to be in this league of course not, but we are and it’s now our first challenge to get up and out of it.
“Everything we are doing is sustainable, it’s moving forwards on and off the pitch and that to me is a success. We’ve got to be better and more consistent on the pitch, the group knows that we’ve got a few areas to bolster but again a 96% squad retention shows you we have a very happy and committed group of people.”