07:00PM, Wednesday 20 October 2021
The pandemic has brought plenty of change, ‘natural wastage’ and churn to Marlow RFC, with head coach Rory Greenslade-Jones describing the last 18 months as a ‘tough old slog’.
But the loss of club stalwarts to other clubs or retirement has enabled the club to integrate some of its younger players from the colts and academy into the first team.
After such a long period without competitive rugby, this was always likely to be a season of transition for Marlow, however, they’ve begun their Southern Counties North campaign pretty well, winning two of their first three matches.
In their last outing at Riverwoods, they held off a talented Stow-on-the-Wold side to deservedly win 19-13, with Greenslade-Jones feeling the visitors were flattered by the scoreline. To put that result in context, Stow then thrashed fifth placed Shipston on Stour 45-15 in their next match at home.
The victories over Bicester (13-11) and Stow have lifted the side to sixth ahead of this weekend’s trip to bottom of the table Thatcham.
Looking back on the past couple of years, and ahead to what appears to be a bright future, Greenslade-Jones said: “It’s been a tough old slog.
“There have been lots of changes as you can imagine in terms of our team, and how we’ve been doing things.
“We’ve brought through lots of youngsters but unfortunately there’s also been some natural wastage in terms of players moving away or retiring. But we’ve got some fresh new faces coming up from the academy system, so it’s been good to try and integrate these new boys and get ourselves back on the pitch playing some rugby.”
The RFU’s return-to-rugby roadmap saw a gradual easing of restrictions over the past year or so, with clubs finally able to return to full-contact rugby from the spring. Like most clubs, Marlow returned to pre-season training with a very different looking squad to the one which last took to the field in a competitive game. But while his squad is one of the youngest in the division – with an average age of 23/24 - Greenslade-Jones believes he’s capable of building a team with the same winning mentality.
“We’ve lost some stalwarts, but that’s just a by-product of COVID and the time really,” he said.
“We’ve lost some key figures, but we look onwards and upwards to the young blood coming through the ranks.
“This must be one of the youngest squads we’ve had, the average age is 23/24, but these boys will hopefully become the stalwarts of the future and take over from some of the older guys.
“It’s quite exciting really to bring through these new guys and start their journey in league rugby.”
Marlow’s solid defence has stood out in their early games, but the tactical nous and skill of their young number 10, Andre Raubenheimer, has helped the side control the tempo of the games.
“It’s a transition season,” said Greenslade-Jones. “But we’re looking to pull together and get that winning mentality again. We want to build some momentum and get on a journey.
“Stow are a good young team, but we defended valiantly against them and we’ve got a young 10, from Henley College called Andre Raubenheimer who is very good tactically at getting us to play in the right areas of the pitch and we’ve also been very good in the scrum and lineout.”
Thatcham have struggled for form in their opening matches, but Greenslade-Jones says the players must guard against complacency if they’re to earn their third league win this Saturday.
“We’ve got to do the right things at the right time and play in the right areas,” he said. “We’ve got to go there thinking they’re a middle of the road team, otherwise, we could get lulled into a false sense of security. You should never turn up to an away match thinking you’re going to win because you’ll end up on the wrong side of the result.”
The UK has voted to leave the European Union in yesterday's referendum - and while the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead fell into the remain camp, Slough voted to support a Brexit.