Season kick-off on Saturday will mark a fresh start for Melton RFC as they head into the league campaign with a new coach and skipper.
The First XV suffered a miserable 2013/14 under Dosser Smith which brought just four wins and relegation before Easter.
Midlands 3 East (North) will be the lowest tier Melton have graced for many years, but close season restructuring and strengthening should give supporters genuine cause for optimism.
Several successful former Colts, as well as a few old heads, have returned from higher grade rugby to propel Melton back up the league ladder. The nucleus of this season’s squad will revolve around members of the National Under 17s Bowl-winning side, including new first team captain Marcus Badham who led that under 17s side to national triumph six years ago.
Others to make the trip back to Burton Road include South Leicester pair Matt Fisher and James Stapleford, Sam Badham (Leicester Lions) and Wayne Brookes (Syston).
But perhaps the most important acquisition is new coach Gareth Collins whose impressive playing career was disrupted by injury and knee reconstruction surgery last season.
Three seasons at the Leicester Tigers in his late teens preceded another three seasons of Championship rugby with Rugby Lions, and nine more in National Two with Leicester Lions, including five as skipper.
Melton will be Collins’ first senior coaching post, but he has twice guided Kings School Grantham to the last 16 of the national Daily Mail knockout competition, and currently coaches Leicestershire under 20s.
He said: “We are in a rebuilding phase. When I came in at the back end of last season there were single figures at training and not much of an atmosphere around the club.
“We have worked hard to get local players back from other clubs and create a decent squad. Over the summer we had more than 40 players at training.”
Pre-season results do not always translate into league form, but Melton will no doubt be encouraged by successive victories over Midlands Two sides. A trial match against Stamford brought a 24-17 win, while Loughborough were hammered 43-0 on Saturday.
Collins added: “We are looking to bounce straight back up and then kick on from there. The ultimate goal is to get Melton into Midlands One which is where a club of this size and ilk should be playing.
“Melton are traditionally strong up front and we do have a good big pack this year so we’ll be looking to play an attractive brand of rugby, but using the assets we have.”
* Melton host Chesterfield Panthers on Saturday (kick-off 3pm).