Rookies No More! Part 3 - Nicola Bennett

With the dawn of a new season on the horizon it means the start of some sophomore seasons for last season’s rookies. With that we took the chance to speak with a few of them to find out their thoughts on joining the team incase you’re still on the fence about joining! Next up it’s the turn of #88 Defensive Back, Nicola Bennett.

Nicola joined the team one Wednesday night practice and never looked back. She is currently the only female member of the team but that doesn’t hold her back at all!

Q: What were your first impressions of the team and how were they changed through the year?

A: First impressions were quite daunting. I rocked up to Garthdee with my football boots and gum-shield not knowing what to expect. A lot of the team are over 6' and that's before they are in full kit! I very quickly discovered that the energy at practice and games is electric and totally addictive. And as much they wouldn't like to admit it, they are all gentle giants and a more supportive bunch you couldn't ask to play alongside.

Q: What piece of advice would you give to someone thinking about coming along to the rookie sessions this November?

A: Do it! Don't just think about it and don't worry about being out of your depth or not getting along with the team. Everyone has to start somewhere, you won't be out of your depth at all. Ultimately everyone wants to succeed as a team and as an individual - there is always support there when you need it!

Q: What was your favourite thing about being a Roughneck?

A: The camaraderie and being part of a history-making Roughneck side. There's no getting away from the fact that we had a few doubters and a lot of negativity thrown in our direction. The grit, determination and togetherness that comes with being part of the team and the atmosphere is amazing.

Q: What are your aims for this season?

A: I want to build on the skills I gained last season at linebacker and make the occasional start on Defence and Special Teams.

Q: What made you want to join the team?

A: I love American Football, being active and being part of a team. It isn't underselling it to say that you get out of being a Roughneck what you put in. It is a million times better than I could have imagined.

Q: When you joined the team you were the only female member, How did you find that?

From day one I was treated with nothing but respect. They were maybe slightly on the gentle side with me at first, until I proved I was just as hardy - if not hardier - than some of the men. And now I honestly don't think anyone notices that I am a woman. Once you're on the field and in kit you are quite simply a Roughneck. There's no singling out and I wouldn't have it any other way. We are all on the same team and all there to do our respective jobs. That makes it even easier for me.

Q: Finally - and most importantly - what song did you sing for your rookie initiation?

A: The West Ham Anthem - “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”

Rookies No More! Part 2 - Che Mueller

With the dawn of a new season on the horizon it means the start of some sophomore seasons for last season’s rookies. With that we took the chance to speak with a few of them to find out their thoughts on joining the team incase you’re still on the fence about joining! Next up it’s the turn of #90 Defensive Lineman, Che Meuller.

Che dazzled throughout his rookie season doing a lot of dirty work in the trenches and put on a great performance in the NFC 2 Championship final to boot! At the age of 37 Che showed all of the young guys on the team how to get it done and really shows you’re never too old to take up the sport!

Q: WHAT were your first impressions of the team and how were they changed through the year?

A: I was first impressed with how many people in Aberdeen like American football enough to play! As the year went on I was further impressed by the knowledge of the game and culture as well as the dedication to the team.

Q: What piece of advice would you give to someone thinking about coming along to the rookie sessions this november?

A: If you're thinking about it...just do it. Coaching staff and senior players are super helpful.

Q: What was your favourite thing about being a roughneck?

A: Difficult to answer following an undefeated championship season, but actually it was the people and the comradeship that we built through the year.

Q: What are your aims for this season?

A: This year, I want to build on last year, up one division, so we all need to up our game.

Q: Finally, and most importantly, what song did you sing for your rookie initiation?

A: A classic - Sweet Caroline!

Roughnecks Rookies No More! Part 1 - Gamu Mukuredzi

With the dawn of a new season on the horizon it means the start of some sophomore seasons for last season’s rookies. With that we took the chance to speak with a few of them to find out their thoughts on joining the team incase you’re still on the fence about joining! First up we speak to Defensive Back #22 Gamu Mukuredzi.

Gamu joined us last season and instantly made his presence felt developing into a key starter for the team on defence last season and scooping up the Bud Light MVP award in our home game against the Dumfries Hunters.

Q: What were your first impressions of the team and how were they changed through the year?

A. I was quite overwhelmed initially because I was in a new environment and I didn’t know anyone, but after a couple of weeks I felt very comfortable and have loved every moment since everyone is so easy to get along with and were incredibly willing to help me develop.

Q: What piece of advice would you give to someone thinking about coming along to the rookie sessions this November?

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A: Try have an idea of where you want to play but be open minded and have fun!

Q: What was your favourite thing about being a Roughneck?

A: The camaraderie amongst the guys was great with the veteran guys always willing to help out and looking forward to training and games week to week!

Q: What are your aims for this season?

A: To be the best athlete I can possibly and become division 1 best corner

Q: Finally - and most importantly - what song did you sing for your rookie initiation?

A: Big Shaq - Mans Not Hot

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Roughnecks Committee Restructured

Following Sunday’s AGM we have a host of fresh new faces on the committee and new roles filled.

With former secretary Ally Howe stepping aside, Andrew Watts steps into the role on the senior committee which will oversee the three new sub-committees alongside returning GM - Grant Travis - and Treasurer - Ollie Schaffmann and new Director of Football Operations, Ruari Collinson. This central committee will oversee the most important issues in the day-to-day running of the club and aid the subcommittees where required.

The new youth subcommittee has been established with the imminent reintroduction of our youth and junior teams and is headed by Youth and Junior Manager Nicola Bennett. She will be assisted by Daire O’Beirne and Ross Elrick as General Youth Committee Members in the running of our programmes geared for players between the ages of 13 and 16. These programmes are seen as being of paramount importance to the long-term success of the whole Roughnecks programme with the youth and junior programmes providing a platform for teenagers to get into the game before they are able to graduate to the senior team.

The new gameday committee expands the previous equipment manager role and will be in charge of ensuring that match days run smoothly for everyone involved. Mark Wemyss steps into the gameday manage role vacated by Finlay Johnson who is leaving due to work commitment elsewhere, and will be assisted by equipment manager Angus Wright and our General Gameday Committee Member Nathan Morrice. The Social subcommittee sees Stuart Don, Darren Henderson and Phil McCall return to their roles as Social Media/PR representative, Social Secretary and Fundraising/Sponsorship Secretary respectively.

This restructuring is intended to lessen the burden on the major committee roles allowing the club to operate more efficiently. Sunday’s AGM also saw Bryce Stevenson implemented as the Head Coaching role as was announced yesterday.

Roughnecks Appoint Bryce Stevenson as Permanent Head Coach

We are delighted to announce the appointment of our new full time Head Coach - Bryce Stevenson. Bryce steps into the role following a highly successful season as our defensive co-ordinator in 2018 where he delivered the NFC 2 Championship alongside Interim Head Coach Ruari Collinson and Special Teams Co-ordinator, George Pirie.

On the appointment Bryce said:

"I am absolute thrilled to have been appointed Head Coach of the Aberdeen Roughnecks. I'm very excited to back to work with the players shortly after a well deserved postseason break, as we prepare to embark on a season within Division 1.

I'm also delighted to announce that Coach Collinson will be returning to take up the Offensive Coordinator position. Coach Collinson was an integral part of this team's success last year and I hope to announce the return of Coach Pirie as the Special Teams Coordinator in the next few days also. The message remains the same from ourselves as previously that we are going to work incredibly hard to provide our players with the best opportunity to succeed at whatever level we play."

Bryce steps into the role with immediate respect ahead of the preparations for the 2019 season as the Roughnecks strive to prove themselves in the second tier of British American Football for the first time. Coach Collinson will now also step into the Director of Football Operations role following Sunday’s AGM. Ruari elected to take on this senior committee role which will allow him to continue his excellent work as offensive co-ordinator whilst overseeing the club’s development as a Division 1 programme in the BAFA National Leagues.

Roughnecks are Champions as Romans Fail to Conquer Scotland Once More

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Having traversed Hadrian's Wall earlier in the day, the Roughnecks took to the field at Druids Park with the conditions and field perfect for a spot of play-off football. This is what the whole season would come down to, one final game to crown the NFC 2 Champions. 

Electing to receive the opening kick-off the offence would take to the field first and the game started as it would go on. The Romans defence would swarm the pocket all evening, restricting the running and passing game and forcing punts from the Roughnecks throughout the day. The Romans however would find a similar fate. Known for their deep air raid passing offence the Roughnecks secondary knew it was in for a long day, but early doors CB - and semi-final MVP - #42 Remi Theron would let it be known they were up to the challenge. Remi ripped a deep pass out of the clutches of a Romans receiver who was surely in for the go ahead score if not for the Frenchman's intervention. Both teams were making mistakes however, with penalties from both, two missed FG from the Roughnecks and turnovers from the Romans (1 Fumble forced and recovered by #22 Gamu Mukuredzi, and 1 Interception from FS #4 Stuart Don) leaving the score at 0 - 0 following the end of the first quarter.

It would be a Roughnecks penalty that would lead to the Romans taking the lead, as the Roughnecks blocked a FG attempt which was deemed to be cause by illegal contact with the long snapper. The Romans would get a new set of downs near the Roughnecks goalline and would capitalise to take a 6 - 0 lead - the quarterback rolling out to his right to find a receiver open in the back corner of the endzone. More turnovers and penalties would follow however and following a fumble recovery by the Roughnecks, kicker #4 Stuart Don would connect on a career long 49 yard attempt to half the deficit set up by a fumble he recovered whilst at FS, which was forced by #56 LB Matt McCall on a Romans run play.

The second half was to be no different in that the defences would dominate and mistakes would be made by both teams. Big plays from DL #69 Andrew Watts would send the Romans backwards time and again and the offence would keep grinding, with #16 Chris Breen hooking up deep down field with #6 Lewis Hughes and #18 Rhys Elmslie with #1 Sean Breen and #85 Rob Hayes helping in the run game and with passes from the slot. #35 Dave Obatolu would spot for #25 Diego Esquer carrying the ball as they ran behind Connor Gray, Keiran DeGabriele, Ally Howe, Jason Rhind and Andy Watts with Mark Wemmys and Josh Bahru making contributions as well. Having found Lewis Hughes down the Roughnecks sideline in the 4th quarter, QB Chris Breen would rush his side to the line of scrimmage hoping to catch the Romans on the back foot but an impressive defensive stand would see the FG unit come out to tie up the game at 6 apiece with only 11 minutes left in the game. A similar defensive stand from the Romans proceeded that one, however the Roughnecks opted to go for it on 4th down that time, coming up agonisingly short as they looked to take the lead. A missed field goal and another one blocked would see out the scoring opportunities for the rest of the game for the Roughnecks as we headed into overtime.

Using the NCAA Football Overtime rules each team would get the opportunity to possess the ball starting on the oppositions 25 yard line in a sudden death penalty shootout type finish to the game. Going on defence first the Roughnecks would look to shut down the Romans offence as they had done for large portions of the game. Defensive Linemen #44 Grant Travis, #69 Andy Watts and #90 Che Mueller had been providing pressure upfront all night, not allowing the Romans QB time to breathe in the pocket and find a passing rhythm. Linebackers Graeme Reith, Darren Henderson, Ollie Schaffmann, Daire O'Beirne and the McCall brothers Matt and Phil would help shut down the Romans running game whilst the secondary took the air out of the ball for the Romans. Corners Gamu Mukuredzi and Remi Theron keeping the Romans high-flying receiving core at bay with help at Safety from Darren Henderson and Stuart Don. Following a scoreless first attempt for both teams - the Roughnecks drive ending with a fumble - both teams would come back out looking for the endzone, this time the Roughnecks would go first and they would find their rhythm at the perfect time. Quarterback Chris Breen connected with both Rhys Elmslie and Rob Hayes down the right sideline with both doing well to remain in bounds before catching the ball. Diego Esquer would wriggle his way down field, finding holes in the Romans defence before Fullback #44 Grant Travis would take to the field on 2nd and goal from 4 yards out. It may have taken a couple of attempts and over 70 minutes of football, but the Roughnecks had their first lead of the game, 13 - 6 with the PAT following the score.

The Romans would start their second attempt brightly too getting a first down after two downs, running the ball once and passing short over the middle on second down. #90 Che Mueller would provide the pressure to force a dangerous cross body pass from the Romans QB on the following 1st down however which sparked a reaction from an overly zealous offensive lineman who would let Che know what he felt of the play. Drawing a disastrous 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty the Romans would be marched back making it 2nd and 25 for the Romans who needed to score to prolong the game. Great defensive plays in the secondary would come from Phil McCall - nearly finishing the game with a difficult interception - and Ollie Schaffmann who batted down the ball on another pass attempt would leave the Romans with 4th and 25. And who else but #69 would make the play to finish the game and the season, shedding his blocker, Andy Watts would sack the Romans quarterback sending the Roughnecks sideline into raptures!

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11 games, 11 wins, and a Gatorade bath for the coaches HC/OC Ruari Collinson, DC Bryce Stevenson, and STC George Pirie. Having collected the medals all that would be left was the crowing of #69 Andy Watts as the NFC 2 Final MVP by presentation of an individual trophy and the handing over of the NFC 2 Silver Salver, held aloft by Head Coach Ruari Collinson.

On behalf of the club we'd like to thank the Northumberland Vikings and Vikings TV for hosting the final. It's a venue we've played at before and suited the occasion. Friends, families and fans are incredibly thankful for the live stream allowing them to be part of the action up in the Granite City or wherever they may have been. Thanks also to BAFA for organising the event, the medals, the trophy and the referees who have an incredibly difficult job but handled it really well!

Coaches' Words

Interim Head Coach/Offensive Co-ordinator, Ruari Collinson:

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"[I am] Unbelievably proud of what the team have achieved this season. They thoroughly deserve to be NFC 2 champions after the work they have put in this season. It was a tough game, Chester proved exactly why they should be in Div 1 next year and are a great programme that made us work extremely hard for the victory. Our D played lights out once again in the playoffs, limiting oppositions offence to just 8 points in the entire offseason is an incredible achievement for that side of the ball and they kept us in the game for large chunks of the evening. The offence struggled at times during the game both down to great defence from the opposition and some poor execution but I can’t fault the heart of the unit. They came through when it was needed and came up with those big plays to give us that go ahead score in OT to leave the D to do what they do best and get after the QB and seal the bowl game.

Preparations have already begun for next season for life in div 1 and this is just the start for us, with this squad and group of coaches we have a lot to build on and look forward to the challenge of Div 1 football next year. On a final note I’d like to thank the Roughnecks' supporters who came down to cheer us on. The noise they made in the 4th quarter and OT was outstanding and we are ecstatic that they made the journey back to Aberdeen happy."


Defensive Co-ordinator, Bryce Stevenson:

"Firstly I'd like to say full credit to Coach Levi Edwards and his players at Chester for making it such a spectacle and wish them all the fortune in Division 1 next year.

The players deserve all the credit for the victory on Saturday night. To win in overtime against the Chester Romans took something special and the way in which they kept fighting throughout the whole game was fantastic. The defence were absolutely incredible they took the game plan and ran with it. All night they stayed disciplined and gave the Chester QB no pre-snap reads and then dropped into the different coverages that we game planned for. I'm so proud of the way the team played, showing real desire and determination - not once did they waiver."

Special Teams Co-ordinator, George Pirie:

"Saturday was a great achievement for all the players and everyone involved with the Roughnecks for the work they’ve put all year long rounding off a perfect season and winning the championship. The character shown by the guys on Saturday in the face of some adversity was that of a championship team and one that deserved to win. We came back from some early missed kicks to kick a career long FG and along with guys making big tackles on ST we ensured the D had the longest field possible to work with.

Credit to the Romans who gave us one hell of a game and we’re great opponents for us in the final and a game that will prepare us well for life in division 1 next year."

MVPs

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Bud Light MVP: #69 OL/DL Andy Watts; Andy played on offence, defence and special teams all day, and was a constant thorn in the side of the Romans offensive line, running back and quarter back. Andy made plays all day long, pushing the pocket, making tackles blocking on offence and making, amongst others, the Championship sealing sack. Well Done Sir, Dilly Dilly!

Offensive MVP: #18 WR Rhys Elmslie; Rhys continued his post season form with another big outing on Saturday. He got the offence going with an early deep catch, and when called upon late in the game to get the team into field goal range, and on the game winning drive Rhys duly delivered. With two catches on the final drive of the game and a clutch sideline grab to move the chains in overtime Rhys. 

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Defensive MVP: #4 FS Stuart Don;  Stuart provided deep coverage to nullify the Romans air raid attack before having to be replaced early in the second half due to cramp, but made his mark on the game securing an interception and fumble recovery to get the ball back to the offence. And that's not to mention the two field goals to tie the game and the PAT in overtime.

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Special Teams MVP: #82 Graeme Reith; Graeme was everywhere on ST, making life extremely difficult for the returner on the punt and kick off teams and was often first to the tackle to keep us on top of the field position battle. Graeme also delivered the long snaps for the field goals and as such had a hand in 7 of the 13 points scored on the day as well.

Scorers:

Rushing: #44 FB Grant Travis

Kicking: #4 K Stuart Don 2x FG, PAT (LS: Graeme Reith, Holder: Grant Travis)

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Managing a Culture; General Manager Grant Travis' thoughts on the 2018 season ahead of Saturday's Final

You know the drill by now; This week sees the biggest game in Roughnecks history with the NFC 2 Final against the Chester Romans. We sat down with each of the coaches this week to bring you their opinion on where the team stands heading into the game, and how they view the success of the 2018 season so far. Finally for the series we have the team's General Manager, Grant Travis:

Firstly, how are you feeling ahead of Saturday?

Confident. The coaches and players have been putting the work in like they have all season and doing what they can to prepare for Chester. The new culture which has been instilled by the coaches has required everyone to buy into the project and everyone has. From getting to training, into the weight room or watching game film, everyone has bought in and it's changed the atmosphere in the camp.

Are you surprised at how far the team has gone this season?

If you asked me at the start of the year, I’d have said yes. But as the seasons gone on, it’s not as surprising. With the quality of our players and the coaching they’ve received it’s evident they have earned their place in the final. As I said with everyone buying in, they're beginning to reap the rewards for all of the hard work and each and every one of us believe we can go on and win Saturday.

Beyond Saturday, what are your goals for the club in division 1 next season and more long-term?

As always the goal is to keep developing the club, coaches and players. From the club stand point we look to expand the sport in the region which will help when recruiting new players, coaches and sponsors. This in turn allows us to go out and buy new training equipment, upgraded training facilities and more, which all goes hand-in-hand with the improvement of the squad really. The first year coaching staff have been great too, and we are looking to expand it to bring on more coaches who can help develop the players further to prove we belong in division 1 next year and that we can compete with the more established clubs in the country. A youth and junior set-up is also extremely important to the success of the club so implementing these teams are a major priority for the club long term too.

Coaching a Culture; Part 3 - Coach Pirie's thoughts on the 2018 season prior to Saturday's Final

You know the drill by now; This week sees the biggest game in Roughnecks history with the NFC 2 Final against the Chester Romans. We sat down with each of the coaches this week to bring you their opinion on where the team stands heading into the game, and how they view the success of the 2018 season so far. Finally for the coaches we have Special Teams Co-ordinator, George Pirie:

FIRSTLY, HOW ARE YOU FEELING AHEAD OF SATURDAY?

Going into the final as the #1 seed I’m heading into Saturday with confidence that if we play to the best of our ability that we will come out with the win. However we know that Chester will not be easy opponents by any means and that we’re in for a tough physical game of football come Saturday. 

ARE YOU SURPRISED AT HOW FAR THE TEAM HAS GONE THIS SEASON?

Honestly not really. It’s something that we’ve been determined to get to from the beginning of the season. Once we started training in January I could tell that there was something different about this team in comparison to roughnecks teams of the past and the goal has always been to get to the final but not to get ahead of ourselves. Setting ourselves mini goals along the way, finishing 8-0, winning our first playoff game and gaining promotion and now winning the bowl.

WHAT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT CHANGE YOU FEEL YOU MADE THIS SEASON?

From a ST point of view more consistent special teams practice sessions have been pivotal to our successes on that side of the ball. Going from practicing ST once every other week to some weeks working on that side of the ball twice a week. This is what I believe has been key to us improving in many key ST stats.

WHO, SO FAR, HAVE BEEN THE STARS ON YOUR Special Teams Units?

All 11 guys that step out onto the field have been important in one way or another. To name a few though, kicker #4 Stu Don and Holder #44 Grant Travis have great chemistry together and that’s a key part of the reason we went 22/23 on PATs this season - an area we’ve really improved on. Our returners #6 Lewis Hughes, #18 Rhys Elmslie and #22 Gamu Mukuredzi have all played big roles in setting up the offence with better field position and also helping ST in putting up touchdowns for the first time in our history. Within the regular season Diego Esquer had a big role on ST, long snapping, making key tackles on punt and kick offs and even blocking a kick his presence has been missed during this post season. 

WHAT WILL BE THE KEY TO THE GAME ON SATURDAY, WHERE WILL THE GAME BE WON AND LOST IN YOUR OPINION?

What the ST unit aims to do is to be disruptive any time we’re defending any kick offs, punts or field goals ensuring we give up minimal points. We also want to win the field position battle giving the offence the shortest field possible to work with and give our D the most space to work with possible. If we can make impact plays on ST and let O and D do their thing that will be key

BEYOND SATURDAY, WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE CLUB IN DIVISION 1 NEXT SEASON AND MORE LONG-TERM?

Next season what we need to do is be competitive the one thing we don’t want is to come straight back down. We’ll work on becoming a solid Div 1 team and as long as we’re constantly improving each season we should find ourselves in good stead.

Coaching a Culture; Part 2 - Coach Stevenson's thoughts on the 2018 season ahead of Saturday's Final

This week sees the biggest game in Roughnecks history with the NFC 2 Final against the Chester Romans. We've sat down with each of the coaches this week to bring you their opinion on where the team stands heading into the game, and how they view the success of the 2018 season so far. Next up in the series is Defensive Co-ordinator, Bryce Stevenson:

Firstly, how are you feeling ahead of Saturday?

I'm feeling confident of our chances for Saturday as you'd expect. It's going to be a tough test but we are relishing the opportunity to go out and compete for a Division title.

Are you surprised at how far the team has gone this season?

No I'm not to be honest. I feel that this team has a very talented roster of guys returning from previous years and the rookies that have joined us this year have embraced their role whatever it may be. I said publicly from day 1  that this team is a Division 1 team currently playing in Division 2 and the changes that were made allowed the team to achieve their potential this year.

What was the most important change you feel you made this season?

I think the most important change we made was developing a culture where success was demanded. We tried to move away from the "pub team" mentality and start preparing like a team that wants to go somewhere. Attendance patterns with minimum required attendances, even the way we prepare for games. We follow a very simple formula where we respect our opposition in the lead up to the game by preparing the same way regardless of the opposition so when we take the field we have given ourselves the best opportunity to succeed. 

Who, so far, have been the stars on your defence?

They are all studs. I think the big stars in all honesty have been the captain's. Our DB group has developed a confidence and a real tenacity under captain #20 Darren Henderson who should be praised for the way they play. Our LBer corps under #85 Rob Hayes and #23 Philip McCall are absolute studs and they make it very easy to adjust to different schemes. And our defensive front just know how to hunt they don't ever stop hustling in the trenches and they love sacrificing themselves for others to make a play. And again the rookies that have come in that have provided support to starters have to take a lot of credit as well for the way they compete in training not allowing guys in front of them on the depth chart to relax.

What will be the key to the game on Saturday, where will the game be won and lost in your opinion?

We've certainly been preparing for Chester as, undoubtedly, they will have been for us. They will absolutely have things that we haven't seen in our preparations, but we certainly have things they won't have seen it's about who adjusts better as a team in my opinion. It might come down to one play. And we believe that when that opportunity presents itself we will make the play.

Beyond Saturday, what are your goals for the club in division 1 next season and more long-term?

At the moment we are focused on the Chester Romans however our goal has always been to be a competitive Division 1 team which was highlighted in my 3 year plan for this team when I took on the role of Defensive Coordinator. This has been echoed by every single player in this team who all said they wanted to be part of a competitive Division 1 football team next year. That's what it comes down to if the players want it then, as coaches we will work incredibly hard to facilitate and drive the train in that direction.

Coaching a Culture; Part 1 - Coach Collinson's thoughts on the 2018 season ahead of Saturday's final

This week sees the biggest game in Roughnecks history with the NFC 2 Final against the Chester Romans. We've sat down with each of the coaches this week to bring you their opinion on where the team stands heading into the game, and how they view the success of the 2018 season so far. First up in the series is Interim Head Coach and Offensive Co-ordinator, Ruari Collinson:

Firstly, how are you feeling ahead of Saturday?

I have mixed emotions ahead of Saturday. I'm very excited however, also slightly nervous which I think is just natural ahead of such a big game. I'm confident that the effort we have put into preparations this week and last that we will compete on Saturday and have every chance of bringing that bowl home.

Are you surprised at how far the team has gone this season?

I think at the very start of the season it was hard to gauge what the division would be like, there was a lot of unknowns in terms of the calibre of our opposition, however I always expected to compete for the division title and as each game went on we expected more and more from the team as they showed so much potential. They thoroughly deserve to have reached this stage and so I would say I’m not too surprised. 

What was the most important change you feel you made this season?

The change of culture. I think the attendance policy was huge, having guys practicing together is part of the reason this team has been so successful this year, myself and the coaches have had to make some tough decisions on player selection due to attendance to send out that message and it has certainly paid off this year. I think everyone involved has realised the commitment levels have risen from previous years and the players have really reacted and bought into that and are now reaping the rewards. 

Who, so far, have been the stars on your offence?

The great thing about my offence this year is they are a complete unit that have many weapons capable of hurting an opposition defence. QB #16 Chris Breen has an exceptional football mind and threw for 16 TDS in 7 games and so far 6 in the playoffs. Receivers Rhys Emslie #18 and Lewis Hughes #6 have both excelled this year, showing great awareness, speed and catching ability. They are both tied on 6 TDs each, through 9 games. If an opposition is lucky enough to shut down those two however then there is also Mr Reliable, Rob Hayes who has the most receptions throughout the regular season and had a big game in the semifinal. And last but not least a huge part of the offence's success this year is the O Line, they have been outstanding most of the year, and although everyone that has played on the line has contributed well, left tackle Andy Watts and right guard Kieran DeGabriele (Angel) have been consistent performers, with the latter being a bulldozer in the run game opening up 3 holes for TDs in the regular season. 

What will be the key to the game on Saturday, where will the game be won and lost in your opinion?

I think at some point it will come down to who wants it more, Chester’s offence is very good, they have proven this season that they can move the ball quick and effectively and put a lot of points on the board, with the preparations put in place we can limit their offence. Their defence does the simple things right and likes shutting down the oppositions strength, we have more than one strength on offence so I feel we will be able to move the ball and score, I think it will be tough and a close game in the end but in the end come down to the team with the more desire and want to win.

Beyond Saturday, what are your goals for the club in division 1 next season and more long-term?

The goal next year will be to stay in division 1 and strengthen each year and establish ourselves as a legitimate BAFA programme. We intend to set up a junior programme that will compete in the junior leagues and provide a constant source of recruitment for the senior team.