WORTHING Raiders Rugby Club head coach Kieron Dawson is bracing himself for a busy summer ahead as the club begins to prepare for their first-ever season in National 1.
Dawson is looking to assemble a squad that will keep their position in the league and believes a lower-to-mid-table finish is achievable.
He is hoping to keep together the majority of the squad who got Worthing promoted, although Kiba Richards has gone to play in New Zealand for six months and Raiders are unlikely to see Harlequins loanees Harry Sloan and Jordan Burns return.
Sloan is expected to join Championship side Ealing, while Burns could join Rosslyn Park – also in National 1 – where he will play scrum-half.
Worthing hope to keep Ollie Richards, who joined the club on loan from Newcastle Falcons in February, and, looking ahead to next season, Dawson said: “We’re under no illusions and it’s going to be a season of consolidation and we’ll be looking to finish lower to mid-table for a couple of years and then begin to push on.
“I’m not saying this because we haven’t got good players or because we haven’t got ambition, because we have, but every game is going to be tough next season and we’re not going to be able to take our foot off the gas as it will take a season to get used to the higher level.”
Dawson is hoping that he can keep together the bulk of last season’s squad, although said: “The vultures are circling around the club already and a few of the players have had offers. We’ve spoken to all of them, though, and told all of them that we want them to stay.
“The money they’d get from other clubs wouldn’t change their lives and there would be more travelling involved with training and everything, while we’re a bit more flexible and enjoying your rugby is the most important thing.
“Having spoken to them, I think that all of them are happy and are looking to push on with the club.
“My phone has been red hot already as we’re looking to strengthen the squad. We know that the standard is going to be a lot better, so we need to have a better squad and are looking to recruit players and get some loan players in as well.
“It’s going to be a new experience. I’m still young as a coach, as is Nick Buoy, and we’ll have to target must-win games next year.
“There will be games against the top sides that we’ll target to win but there will be other games that we must win and we’ll sit down and have a look at those games once the fixtures come out.”
Dawson believes that the club has the potential to play in the Championship further down the line and said: “It’s one league above where we are now and the players are all good enough.
“With the proposed move (to a site in Goring) a few years away, we’re looking to move forward as a club.
“We get great support from the club and from the chairman and we’re trying to put things into position, like a more professional feeling squad and a more professional feeling club.
“The management and committee is really pro-active. We want the club to be a part of the community and have functions on at a new ground, with kids training all day, and have 3G pitches as well.
“The move is going to be very exciting. It might be four or five years until we’re ready to move, or it could all happen a lot faster.”