THERE might not have been any big name signings at Ivybridge this summer, but that has not worried new head coach Gareth Elliott.
The Bridgers, who came fifth last season in the South West Premier – their highest-ever finish – are happy to rely on the majority of last term’s squad and their impressive colts production line for the 2019-20 campaign.
Although they have lost last term’s top scorer Billy Pinkus to South West Premier rivals Brixham, as well as Pete Abraham (OPMs) and Nathan Davies (Plymstock Albion Oaks) they do have more youngsters coming through their ranks and a number of players either returning from injury or after breaks from playing.
Front-rower Luke Richardson is back after not playing for a while, while fellow forwards Nathan Reeves and Dom Loomes are among those fully back in the mix this summer.
“At the end of the day we don’t pay players like other teams in our league so it’s not like we can really go out and try and get somebody in,” said Elliott. “It is just about whether players want to come or not.
“The main thing has been getting guys in the local area who I know have played before back into the club. We have had a bit of success with that.
“And we have had decent training numbers. We are averaging about 30 per session, which I’m happy with.
“We have four or five colts who have come through and they will feature in our twos and there’s certainly at least one who could feature in our ones.
“I do want to get that second team firing again as last season it was just whoever rocked up on a Saturday, but I want to get the organisation better and make them feel more part of the squad and get them training.
“They are a big part of the club and without me taking a big interest in them we are not going to function as a club. That was a big driver for me coming back into the club. We want to make those guys feel really worthwhile.
“If you haven’t got a good second team then when you do get injuries you haven’t got those guys to step up, so it just makes sense to push that team.”
Elliott, who is head analyst and an academy coach at Exeter Chiefs, has been happy with how pre-season has gone so far.
“I’ve been bringing in some new stuff and the boys have taken to it really well,” he said.
“And from feedback from the players, everyone has enjoyed pre-season and enjoyed a couple of new challenges of getting to know some new calls and structures. Everyone seems to be enjoying training and I’m enjoying been back in it.
“There are a lot of talented players here and so it is easy to work with them.”
Ivybridge will get their pre-season preparations fully underway next weekend with two games in two days.
On the Friday evening (August 16) they will host Exeter University at Cross-in-Hand and the following day will visit Kingsbridge.
Then at the end of August they will play Topsham at home and Taunton away.
“I’m just looking forward to getting into games,” said Elliott. “You can do as well as you want in pre-season but it does not matter until you get to games.
“To be fair, the lads have been working hard in pre-season and I’m just looking forward to seeing how we go against Exeter Uni.”
Exeter University, who have a team in Ivybridge’s league, have stepped in to fill a void created after Teignmouth pulled out of visiting Cross-in-Hand.
Elliott expects the university to bring a different side to what they will field in the league and so is not worried about playing them in pre-season.
“It was good of them to step in as it was a bit last minute,” said Elliott. “It will be a different team (to their league side) and I’m not too stressed about it anyway as long as we get a good run-out.”