Having been promoted ‘by default’, Newmarket Rugby Union Football Club are seeking a season of consolidation, writes Liam Apicella.
Last season’s return of 16 victories from their 22 outings saw Newmarket finish fourth in the Eastern Counties Greene King League Division One.
However, due to a Rugby Football Union restructure, the Elizabeth Avenue-based outfit were one of six to be elevated up to the new Eastern Counties Greene King League London Division Three for 2017/18.
The tough task ahead is highlighted by Newmarket’s opening three fixtures, starting with Wymondham away on Saturday (3pm), followed by Thetford (home) and Crusaders (away) — the three clubs that finished above them last term.
As such, first-team manager Raymond Richardson has conceded that he and head coach Dave Sayer will settle for a half-way finish.
“We are going into a new league and as we know, we were promoted by default,” said Richardson.
“If the lads can make sure we compete and consolidate at this level, that is all we are asking for.
“It is going to be tough, but we should hopefully be okay. Dave and I would be very happy to finish mid-table.
“Ensuring we stay at this level for next season is the main aim, but the higher we finish, the better.”
With Matt Kent having departed for a new job in New Zealand, the team this year will be skippered by Max Bell.
There were more experienced contenders in the squad to take over from Kent, but Richardson has insisted Bell was the logical choice.
“Max is a committed lad who trains and plays every single week,” he added.
“He did a good job last year whenever he was needed to step into the role when Matt was away.
“Max has a very good knowledge of the game and most importantly has the respect of the players.
“You can be the best captain in the world, but if there is no respect from the squad, it will not work.”
Along with Kent, Spencer Pettitt has linked up with neighbouring Bury St Edmunds. Centre Alex Taday, meanwhile, has rejoined Newmarket following a stint with Ely City and at university.