NEW Plymouth Argaum boss Mark Sullivan has been happy with how pre-season has gone at Bickleigh Down.
Sullivan took over as Argaum’s director of rugby at the end of last season.
He heads a new-look coaching team for the 2017/18 campaign that also includes Mark Albiston, Calum Mills and Tom Holliday.
Sullivan is not making any bold predictions ahead of Argaum’s third season in the Cornwall/Devon League, but he is certainly hoping they can do better than last term.
“It has been a lot of hard work over pre-season to get us into a position where I think the players can justify the talent they have,” said Sullivan.
“I am not going to say we are going to be in the right position at the beginning of the season, but I think we are in a better position than we were last season and that’s all I have asked them to do – be better than they were last year.”
He added: “It is a very tough league we are in and I am not going to make any promises this season.
“But my objective is to try and get them into the top third and for them to enjoy their rugby.”
Sullivan knows finishing in the top third would be tough to do, but he said: “I want to try and stretch them a little bit.”
A lot will depend on injuries. Argaum suffered badly in that department last season, including losing the influential Dan James in the opening month of the campaign.
James suffered an ACL injury and required surgery. However, the club hope he will be back in action by December.
“Dan James is looking to get back by Christmas,” said Sullivan. “But he is still influential on the sidelines.”
James is one of those rare players that can play almost anywhere on the field.
“At this level in a competitive league like this when you lose one of those players it makes a real difference to the dynamic of your team,” said Sullivan.
“If we manage to hold our own and play the way I know we can in the first half of the season as we get players back I see us really pressing well.”
Initially, Sullivan was not too keen on taking over as head coach at Argaum. It was not that he didn’t want the role, but he was worried whether he could combine it with his work commitments.
“I have a busy job,” said Sullivan. “But what I agreed was that I would have a coaching set-up around me, so that if for some reason I was unable to attend it wouldn’t just fall between the cracks.
“I have got some brilliant support in Calum Mills and Mark Albiston and we also have Tom Holiday and Ryan Chivers.
“I am enjoying it a lot and I am enjoying the team starting to gel together and seeing them enjoying their rugby.”
Argaum have had a couple of mixed pre-season results with players unavailable, but they did impress at a 10s event at Devonport Services in July.
“What you would have seen at the 10s event is the penetration we have been trying to drill into the backs,” said Sullivan.
“There is some game-play they are still a little bit confused with and over-play it sometimes, but I think overall I am happy with where we are.
“If we get all our players together for the first game of the season I think we will do ourselves justice. “I can’t say exactly how well we will do because I don’t know what the other teams are like.”
Argaum will open their Cornwall/Devon League campaign with a derby match against Plymstock Albion Oaks at Bickleigh Down on September 2.