Melton RFC head coach Collins pledges future to club as First XV face relegation

Head coach Gareth Collins took Melton RFC to successive promotions and two memorable County Cups EMN-190123-125553002
Head coach Gareth Collins took Melton RFC to successive promotions and two memorable County Cups EMN-190123-125553002
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Melton RFC First XV coach Gareth Collins has said he would like to stay as the club prepares for life after relegation.

While the Midlands One East season is just a few games past the halfway mark, the First XV have lost all 16 of their fixtures and are using the rest of the campaign to build for Midlands Two.

Former National League player Collins has been beset by serious knee injuries in recent seasons EMN-190123-125603002

Former National League player Collins has been beset by serious knee injuries in recent seasons EMN-190123-125603002

But while several players have jumped ship as the struggles worsened, Collins is keen to oversee the rebuilding job, if required.

“I still enjoy being at the club and hope to be there next season,” he said.

“For the last couple of months I’ve been working with the chairman and other committee members to plan ahead about where we are and where we want to go.”

Melton started the season on the backfoot as their long injury list carried over from the previous campaign, including key players Klay Radford and Dan Wakefield, while captain Marcus Badham had moved on.

But they remained competitive, losing their opener at Rugby to the last play of the game, and suffering three further late defeats.

And Collins believes if they had held onto winning positions in those games, the story of the season could have read very differently.

“I think a lot of players were undecided and didn’t do pre-season,” he explained

“When the season started a few came back into the fold, but were maybe undercooked because of the lack of pre-season.

“We lost four of the first eight games in the last few minutes of games and lost two with the final play.

“Maybe if we had won those four, those decisions (to leave) would have been different.”

Collins added: “It has been a very tough ask. We have lost a lot of players to other clubs, and a lot of players have decided to stop playing for whatever reason.

“When you lose three of your front five, and the scrum is a big part of your game, that’s a big blow.

“The situation changed dramatically around the halfway point of the season, but it is what it is and we will move on.”

The run-up to the Christmas break brought a series of dispiriting defeats as the severely-depleted team’s fate began to look doomed in a ruthless league.

Saturday was earmarked as an opportunity to get the winless monkey off their backs, against second-bottom Leighton Buzzard, but the streak continued after a narrow 17-12 home defeat.

“Saturday was a big opportunity for us to get a win, but in some ways it was just nice to compete,” Collins added.

“We were in a game and had a chance to win, and we hadn’t been there for a while.

“We have competed with a side that are going to be relegated like us, barring a miracle, and that’s what this group of players need to do to consolidate next year.”

The exits of some of the old guard has presented opportunities for others to show their future worth.

And despite the impossibly big step-up, Collins has been encouraged by the potential shown, particularly from current and former Colts such as Archie Hutchinson, Aidan Smith, Will Garnett, and Jake Dixon.

“We still have a lot of players and a big and young squad, but the reality is that the group we have at the moment is not equipped for the level the team is at.

“Individually they are getting a lot better which will stand us in good stead.

“Leon Gormley and Wayne Brookes have been there week in and week out bringing through the new players and there are some success stories in there.

“We have young players in key positions like Archie Hutchinson who has been taken straight from Colts rugby to play scrum-half in Midlands One.

“It is a huge ask to be playing men’s rugby at that age let alone against very good quality players.

“Working with the next group of players is going to take a bit of time, but the club has been very realistic about that.

“Now it’s all about equipping ourselves for the long term.”

Collins also insists Melton RFC doesn’t begin and end with the First XV and believes the club as a whole is in good health.

“It’s very easy to look at the first team results and say that things aren’t going well,” he added.

“But the second team have had a very successful first half of the season so the club is not in a bad place, and that’s more important than just the first team.”