Haverhill Rugby Club is capable of a top three finish next season, new head coach Tony Hope believes.
The club veteran, who has been involved with the team for 46 years, has been appointed as the first-team manager for the 2017/18 season.
And he is demanding commitment from his players from the beginning, with a five-week skills training session due to begin next week.
He is adamant the players can improve on last season’s fifth place with a little extra work over the summer.
He replaces player-coach Jake Jeffs, who has chosen to step aside after a year. Jeffs will likely remain a player with the club next season.
“He’s a builder by trade — I think he started a company about two years ago now,” he said. “And it’s taken off, so he needs to focus on that.
“Obviously it’s great for him, but it is a loss to the club.”
Haverhill RFC play in the Eastern Counties Greene King Division Two West — a league Hope said is the right level for them for now.
“We need to keep doing what we’re doing,” he said. “But I think there could be lots of small improvements.
“And with them could come a better finish. The side are certainly capable of a top three finish.
“More than capable of it in fact, but we’ll have to see how the next year plays out.”
He joked: “Ask me again at Christmas, I might have something else to say then.
“The team will need to start the season strongly though, whatever happens.”
Hope said one of the club’s biggest achievements — which would be hard to outshine — was the formation of the second team last year.
“I’m so proud of that,” he said. “It really was the biggest thing to happen at the club for years.
“It shows how much interest there is in the game and club in the area.
“I think my role this year is to steady the ship and give more of the same.
“So I’ll want to see commitment from the players.
“I know it can be tough for them, with work and life, but I want to see the side working hard to put as many good results together as last year.
“There’s as much that needs to happen off the field as on it.
“This year is about making sure everyone knows what we are trying to do.
“If we’re committed then we’ll be competitive on the field and challenge for a top three finish.”
The 59-year-old knows a little bit about commitment to Haverhill RFC, having been loyal to the club from 13.
“I started as a player, joining at 13 when I moved to Haverhill,” he said. “I think I’ve taken on all the roles at the club at one time or another now.
“The team we have in place are experienced — particularly the coaching staff — so I’m looking at my job slightly differently.
“I trust that the coaches and everyone involved with the team know what they’re doing and all I’m there to do is bring out the best in them.
“And their best is well capable of a top league finish, with dedication, hard work and a bit of belief.”
The team will start preparing for the new season from May 24 with the five-week skills session.
Hope said it would be a huge boost to the players going into the pre-season.
“They’ll be fitter and able to hit the ground running,” he added. “It’s really important.
“And September will come very quickly, I can’t wait.”