There will be no resting on their laurels for Amber Valley RUFC 1sts after their highly successful 2013-2014 season.
After the disappointment of relegation at the end of the 2012-2013 campaign, they bounced back in fine style by coming second in the Midlands Four East (North), gaining promotion, and rounding off the season by beating league champions Chesterfield Panthers in the Derbyshire Shield final.
Now the planning is under way as Lower Somercotes-based Valley look to be competitive at the higher level when the new season starts in September. Steve Grainger, who coaches the side with Robert Robbins, explained: “We feel there is quite a gulf between the standard of Midlands Three East and Four East and when we came down we felt the players hadn’t played to their full potential at all.
“We really looked at it hard pre-season, concentrating on improving core skills, fitness, and the ability to not only carry out a gameplan but also adapt it during a match, and all that has really paid dividends.
“We set the players three targets: one was to win every game, the second was to get promoted and the third was to win every game with a bonus point.
“We said we might be prepared to compromise on one or maybe two of those, but certainly not on promotion and it turned out that we got promoted and we won the Derbyshire Shield too, so it’s been a very enjoyable season.
“We won all of our first 11 league games and then lost only two all season. We lost the first game back after Christmas but it was the wake-up call we needed and we refocused and went on strongly from there.
“We did well at picking up game cues and executing match plans well. We started to read the game better and use skills properly.
“Our strengths is as a side which is quite forward-oriented. We have a lineout that we are certainly happy with and a scrum that is good too. We build from there. We improved our loose play considerably from the previous season and that proved a real help.
“We are already putting in the training programmes for next season, ready for when we come back to it in June/July and we feel we go back up a wiser side than when we came down, with more ideas about what we need to do to cut it at that level. We think it will be a season of consolidation first and foremost because some restructuring will be required due to players retiring.”
Steve Grainger added: “The most pleasing performance was probably Leesbrook at home. They dictated it to us throughout the first half, which was a bit unexpected, but we had a good chat at half-time, stepped it up and really blew thwem away after that, which was pleading to see.
“We have a number of players who are leaders and. when you need them. they stand up to be counted. but Ben Parker got the coaches player of the year award because of his onfield leadership, his rational thinking and play and his influence on the other players, so he’s one who did very well.”