Steve Bowak knows it’s not been a great season for Haverhill & District in Division One West of the Eastern Counties Greene King League — they’ve failed to pick up any league points.
But he also knows that the real story is in the dedication of a team who return, week after week, to train and learn despite the score the previous weekend.
And he thinks that, more than anything, is what should be praised as the team prepare for the final fixture of 2017, an away match against Bury St Edmunds Rovers III (2pm) at The Haberden.
He said: “Bury will have a large crowd so I hope this inspires Haverhill to a good performance.
“We have been concentrating on the basics this week in training and making sure everyone knows their roles.
“We’ve brought in some of the younger players and have really been working on the tackling area. I feel we’ve made big strides.
“Against Thurston in our last match, we were very good for the first 40 minutes.
“But we then dropped our heads in the second 40.
“We’re still improving but the players now know what went wrong in the second half.”
Bowak will oversee only his third game in charge on Saturday, after stepping up from the assistant role to replace Tony Hope.
He said the team’s selection issues were well-publicised at this point in the season, but the commitment of his squad was not.
“I’m proud of the players,” he said. “It’s not been easy for them, but they are putting in the effort in training and at all times really.
“They’re looking like a team that want to get better.
“I think there’s been great improvement since the first few games.
“We have some really good players, they just need some more experience.
“Ultimately, it’s about the right attitude and, win or lose, these boys have it.
“And they should be getting the praise for it.
“They’re putting in the hard work — they are committed and want to represent their club at the best level they can. I can’t fault that.”
But, whether or not the side will remain in Division One is yet to be decided, with the idea muted that they may request a drop down the league.
“We have the ability to say to the league ‘we want to go down’, so we will assess what to do at the end of the season.
“For now, we’re waiting for the division to split and for the second half of the season.
“We’ll then be playing the other Division One bottom teams — from the West but also the North and South — and I hope we can be competitive then. But there’s still a long way to go, and how we’ll fare is also a bit of an unknown.
“One thing I have impressed on the squad is playing with a smile on our face. I want them to be enjoying it, whatever the score, and to just enjoy the contest and the game.”
“Haverhill Rugby Club is about a love of rugby, but winning that first game is going to be really special.”
The side still have three further fixtures in the New Year before the division splits.