Rugby

DHSOB are hoping for a change of fortunes in the 2018-19 season

DHSOB’s senior set-up are hoping the 2018-19 season can bring a change of fortunes for them after a number of years of struggle.

The Old Boys did amazingly well to survive last season after losing a whole host of their players, having no clubhouse and having their pitches damaged by travellers.

But against the odds they did get through the campaign and managed to avoid finishing bottom of Devon Two.

However, they are now hoping they can push on with a new head coach, a new committee, a new lease and improved changing rooms at Stonehouse Creek, a new after-match bar area at the re-opened community centre and a new league to play in.

DHSOB, along with Plympton Victoria, St Columba & Torpoint, Ifracombe and Salcombe, have joined the reorganised Devon Merit Table League. Matches in the Merit Table are deregulated making it easier for clubs to borrow players if they are struggling. The leagues are also regionalised meaning travelling will also be less. The Old Boys’ furthest trip this season will be to Torquay.

Martyn Ruskin, who has been coaching the Royal Navy and Cornwall RFU’s women’s teams, has become their new head coach. He says everyone at the club is excited about the new campaign.

“As a club we have drawn a line under last season now,” he said.

“We are excited about this year, but we are also realistic. We are not going to go out and be beating everybody. We understand our limitations – we just have to grow the beast again.

“Hopefully, the structure we are putting in now and the style of rugby we want to play will mean we will get some players back through the door.”

He added: “There are probably more attractive options at the moment for players, but we have to try and show ourselves as something different. We are trying to promote ourselves more as a family club – dad can play for the seniors and little Tommy can play for the under-whatever’s.”

Although DHSOB’s senior side have struggled in recent years, their junior set-up – the Stonehouse Sharks – has been a big success.

The problem is, though, few of the talented players they produce go on to play for their first team, as most get snapped up by higher league clubs – as do some of their best adult players.

“DHSOB has been a stepping stone for everyone else for years and we understand that is what we might be for another year or two, but we do want to change that philosophy and be a club that people do actually want to stay at,” said Ruskin, a former DHSOB player.

Although the Old Boys will be able to borrow players to help them if they are struggling in the Devon Merit League, Ruskin is hoping it will not have to come to that.

“We are really keen to try and do it on our own every game,” he said. “We want to get the colts in when and where we can. I am really keen as a coach to use our players and our players only as we want to promote cohesion and a unity. The only way we can do that is by playing and training together.

“We have been quite good with numbers over the summer.”

DHSOB have not had any new senior players join them yet, but they are hoping some will come down and give rugby a go with them before the season starts.

They hope their facilities will help them attract new recruits. Their dressing rooms have all been repainted and improved as a gratitude for the problems they had to put up with last season in terms of their pitches and when a deal between Plymouth City Council and Plymouth Albion for the lease of the community centre fell through leaving it closed.

They are now working with the new lease owners of the centre, Orange Chilli, for after-match hospitality.

In addition, the club have also just take ownership of a new scrum machine, which can be used by different age groups. They are also hoping to get more companies in the city to support them as they bid to progress.

The Old Boys’ senior side will begin their season with an away game against Plymouth Argaum Wanderers on September 1.

DHSOB player and treasurer Richard Maidment inside their refurnished changing rooms

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