A mid-season chat with Cockles head coach Jon Hill

PUBLISHED: 09:39 21 December 2017 | UPDATED: 09:39 21 December 2017

Action from the Cockles win over Ivybridge

Action from the Cockles win over Ivybridge

Archant

Exmouth RFC head coach Jon Hill is expecting his side to show greater consistency in the second half of the South West Premier League season when the Cockles return to league action on January 6.

Hill says: “We have Dings, Newton and Maidenhead all at home, all teams who are above us. Our injury list is reducing each week, and we are becoming stronger as a result. I would expect us to be more consistent in the second half of the season, and with the ‘in theory’ continuous availability of back five forwards Ben Hawley and James Harris, who have played just five games between them in the first half of the season, it will be like having two new quality signings into the squad.”

On the ‘down’ side this term, the Cockles have suffered a lengthy injury list and Hill says: “I have never known a season like this one for injuries. We went to Dings with 16 players missing - and it really showed. However, the absences have created a lot of opportunities for our fringe and younger players, which can only be a positive thing moving forward and certainly links with some increased representative honours gained in recent weeks.”

We then asked the Cockles head coach to sum up the highlight of the season to date. He replied: “I think the victory against all odds against Camborne in November could prove to be the point at which our season turned for the better.

“We went down there with so many players unavailable and injured and managed to grind out a victory which served as a massive boost to team morale.”

Against that, what has been the lowest point of the term so far? Hill responded saying: “Our worst performances were certainly against Dings and Bracknell away, where we all underperformed, and gave a really poor account of our capabilities, both individually and collectively.”

We next asked if any players have really stood out to date during the campaign? His response was: “I have been really pleased with some of the new signings, who have all bought into the culture and dynamic of the team and really added to it. Sam Richardson, Tom Whelan, Davy McGregor and the returning Richard Bright have all added a lot to our all round game and brought some much-needed leadership to the coaching and playing side.”

He continued: “The role of second XV captain Tom Steer has also been vital to the club’s ethos and spirit.

“He works hard behind the scenes with Robbie Lowe to create a good atmosphere and plug standards and training numbers.

“Richard Haynes brings old school values but a high level of professionalism to his role of 3rd XV manager and the club is in good health at the minute, putting out more senior sides than any other team in Devon on a weekly basis.

That is something that we, as a club, can be extremely proud of.”

We then asked for the head coach’s thoughts on the continuing conveyor belt of young talent coming through the ranks at the Imperial Ground.

Hill replied saying: “Our colts coach John Justice and our former 1st XV forwards coach Stuart Lowe are both working wonders in our colts section, and at Exmouth Community College respectively.

“Ali Hill and Alex Goldman have both made big coaching contributions to the 2nd XV and the club’s decision to invest time and money into entering the South West Pilot League with our 2nd XV has proved to be extremely worthwhile.

“The quality of fixtures has improved for our fringe players, and a few decent midweek games against the Navy have provided excellent opportunities for our young players.

“I would have no hesitation in handing a 1st team jersey to any of the current 2nd XV or colts players who are banging on the door. Harry Ottaway and Sam Fulthorpe are two current colts who could fit in as a half back combination, and we may look to reward them later in the season if the time is right.

“They played against the Navy and controlled the game really well, with Harry gaining the Man of the Match award.”

Concluding our interview, Hill summed up saying: “There is now a clearer pathway within the club, better communications between colts and senior sections, and we hope to see better player retention as a result in the coming years.

“Our #OneClub project is working very well and you only have to see photos of the club Christmas social event at the weekend as ample evidence of an excellent club spirit.”

Our cover picture with this article shows the ‘Santa’s on parade’ at the club’s Christmas social held at the clubhouse at the weekend.

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