Not until the last week of the season
did Kidderminster Carolians know if they
were to be relegated. Lying third from
bottom of Midlands 3 West (North), they
narrowly escaped from dropping down a division
for the first time since 1991.
It was inevitable that their run of good seasons would come to an end, but
the writing has been on the wall for some time. They have been caught in “no-mans
land” with a gap between seasoned and inexperienced young players.
Injuries and unavailability have been other factors. Long-serving Andy Stooksbury
took over the role of Club Coach and has somehow survived a tough baptism.
Mark Cleeton, seemingly happy to play in the lower sides was recalled to the
1st XV and worked hard to put some steel in his fellow forwards. The loss of
hooker Stuart Such to Dudley-Kingswinford was a blow, as was the unavailability
of second row forward Matt Bennett. He did return for the latter end of the
season and KCs looked a far better team with his presence.
Various options were tried and several 2nd XV players came through. James Whitehouse,
James Guest, Ollie and Leon Toms, plus Greg Fincher were often called upon
to face sides streets ahead of Kidderminster, but they performed well and proved
what a wealth of young talent the club has. They held their positions on merit.
Sadly, further education regularly takes developing players away from home
and the club suffers. We await moves in that direction.
Director of Rugby Phil Knowles has been very supportive, but philosophical,
about KCs’ poorish season. He knows you cannot force players to train
more often, improve fitness, or suddenly turn into top performers. He is as
frustrated as anyone, but realises that there is no easy or quick solution.
From my point of view, relegation might have helped the club rebuild. Younger
players could improve with lesser opposition and the chance of winning on a
regular basis is good for confidence. However, my view is not shared by the
majority of supporters.
It was wrongly reported that three players, Mark Cleeton, Andy Stooksbury,
and Ambro Neri were all retiring. That is not so. Only Ambro has called it
a day. He feels that a year off and a possible return in one of the other club
sides is ideal.
Ambro Neri has been a top class winger for many seasons. His pace enabled to
him to leave defenders standing, and his courageous tackling was a highlight
of many games. Two injuries this season has finally made up his mind. He will
be greatly missed.
The 1st XV with Eddie Ross as captain,
played 29 games, won 9, lost 18 and made
a draw in 2. Top try scorers were James
Whitehouse (7) and Eddie Ross and Ambro
Neri (6 each). Andy Stooksbury, the leading
goal kicker scored 122 points.
The 2nd XV led by Mick Crocker, were the most successful of the club’s
three sides and won 16 of their 25 matches. Tries came from James Guest (16)
and Iain Crockett (12). Crockett also kicked 45 points.
Sean Ryan put plenty of hours in organising the 3rd XV, and in a world where
clubs are struggling to put two let alone three sides out, they played 27 games,
winning 9. Paul Weston scored 9 tries.