The league season may have only just ended, but there is no rest for the Greens as the groundwork for the 2018/19 BT Premiership season begins next weekend with the start of what head coach George Graham describes as a “brutal” pre-season training schedule.
It’s been 89 days since the Robbie Dyes retained their Premiership status, defeating eventual champions Melrose in a one-sided, season finale romp. It was a relegation close call that has become all too familiar at Mansfield Park, and one Graham is keen to leave firmly in the past.
The Hawick head coach attributed a lack of fitness as the deciding factor for his side’s struggles last term, and why they languished at the foot of the table for the majority of the season. The coach has therefore developed a preseason schedule focused on getting his charges to a fitness level he feels can be competitive when the season kicks off in late August.
“I didn’t think the boys were fit enough when I took over and that was nearly half way through the season, it was one of the reasons why we couldn’t keep pace with teams for the majority of the season and why it took us so long to play at a level I was happy with,” Graham said this week.
“Pre-season is going to be brutal for them, it is never easy. It’s hard work but if they are committed and bring an intensity to every session then I’m confident we’ll be in good shape for the start of the season.”
In it’s final year as constituted before the Super6 and the SRU’s agenda 3 reshape Scottish club rugby, this season’s Premiership provides Hawick with one final chance to show how good they are against the best club sides in the county.
Graham is keen to establish a foundation in this final premiership season that can help provide Hawick with the secure future it has craved for years and re-establish the Green Machine as a force to be reckoned with, rather than being the alsoran they have resembled in recent years.
“The only way we are going to stop hanging about the bottom end of the table and bring this club back to the top is if we are fit enough to complete games.
“Playing at the bottom end of the table isn’t where this club should be. The focus is on building on last year with a good base that can help the club grow. To do that preseason is crucial to give ourselves a chance at a great start [to the season]. With the Super6 coming in soon it’s anyone’s guess what the premiership will be like but we will be going all out to make a mark this term.”
To achieve these lofty goals Graham will be putting his charges through a painful pre-season with hard fitness training to open next Saturday followed closely by technical work – which Graham admitted he is adding earlier than usual in an attempt to freshen up his own training style. The hope being Hawick will not be half a season behind everyone else when the season beings, rather ready to hit the ground running from the opening contest.
“I told the boys at the end of the season that I didn’t want them to come to preseason with the aim of getting fit for the season coming,” continued Graham.
“I told them to be fit and ready to go when they came in for pre-season and we would then get them prepared for the rigours of the premiership season. It’s going to be hard running and painful work but it’s necessary. Everyone will be involved, no exceptions, but there will be some changes to how I have done preseason in the past.
“I am a fairly old-fashioned coach. The players wouldn’t touch a ball until a long way down the line but I will be changing things up this year by introducing a lot more ball and skills work three or four weeks in.
“Basically to change it up and evolve the way I do things.
“At the end of it hopefully we will have a squad ready to hit the Premiership running.”
On the prospect of adding or losing players from his Greens squad Graham added: “We have options but nothing concrete as yet. But all in all, we should have a very competitive squad for next season.”