|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.
The club are grateful to all the off-field helpers, and not least their superb touchline support. Let’s hope that next season there will be more to cheer about.