Kev Rackley - Photo courtesy of John Newport
With the start of the new rugby season just three weeks away Reading RFC’s coaching line-up are ramping up their players pre-season preparations so that they will be at their peak for the opening South West Division 1 East fixture against visitors Old Centralians on September 1st.
Former 1st team hooker Paul Fisher is the man tasked by Head Coach Paul Gaster with the job of getting the best out of the forwards while the senior sides' current fly half Rob Sweeney takes charge of the backs.
“Having been at the club a lot of years I think while, perhaps, we haven’t got such strong players individually, this is the strongest squad we’ve had for a long time,” says Fisher. “We’ve gone away from the boom and bust times when we were paying players and gone back to basics and, actually, it’s the most we’ve had down training for the past five or six years.”
Players such as flanker Jamie Guttridge have returned to the club while Fisher is particularly pleased that a former RAF teammate and tight-head prop Richard James has also decided to join.
But, while `promotion’ appears to be the buzzword at Holme Park currently, Fisher adopts a more cautious approach towards his charges chances of going up.
He says: “We do want promotion but, realistically, there are so many local derbies that they do make it that much harder.
“Newbury, for example, have a new coaching regime who’ll want them to go back up and Bracknell coming back into the league will be a tough team to beat, so it’s looking like we’ll be the poor relations.
“But, I think that, last season we didn’t do ourselves justice whereas this season we have the players and the people to shock a few clubs!”
It’s certainly a view held by backs coach and last season's top points scoring fly half Rob Sweeney.
An Army man, based in Hounslow, the 30 year-old has been a regular at the club for the past six seasons and is very pleased with the squads early season commitment to training.
“It’s going very well and the boys are looking fit and eager to have their first game,” he sums up. “The club want promotion so we are going to go for it and, I believe, the way that the squad has been training that they are all eager to go and do it.”
And he also has a special word of praise for new club coach Paul Gaster.
“He’s a good head coach,” he states categorically. “It’s just the way that he’s gone about the whole business since he arrived - he’s very professional.”
Overseeing the whole 1st XV operation is hard-working Team Manager Kevin Rackley, a former No.8 and Reading player himself and the team’s administration mainstay over the past six years.
“I make sure that the players are organised, the kits sorted and generally do everything so that they only have to concentrate on playing the game,” he explains. “But, in general, the clubs in a very good place at the moment.
“The Executive Committee is working hard, there’s great information coming back on new players, there’s a super turnout for training and the guys are putting in the hard work under a great coaching team.”
All-in-all there’s a confident air sweeping through the club from top to bottom and with a hard-working team both on and off the field the `Green Machine’ is once again gathering pace and momentum.
Anyone wishing to join the club should contact Chairman of Rugby Andy Clark on 07831 462965 or turn up at the regular weekly training sessions on Tuesday or Thursday evenings from 7pm onwards.