Old Albanian pre-season starts on Saturday

Old Albanian

Old Albanian - Credit: Archant

IN ALL but name the new season begins at Woollams next Saturday, writes Brian Quinn, when Old Albanian welcome old friends Shelford for the first full contact trial against proper opposition.

The National 2 South guests are well known to and respected by the Woollams faithful and will be sure to provide Albanians with the sternest test before Andy Holloway’s side visit Championship new boys Ealing the following week.

New head coach Holloway said his charges are well prepared for the weekend’s exertions and the trials ahead of them and regards this game’s three period format as helpful to the players and management of both clubs.

“Every year the training and the talking stops and the contact begins” said Holloway, “and it is crucial for both clubs to have a clear idea of how far along the preparation line they have travelled.

“This meeting will go a long way to acknowledging what has been achieved and what is yet to do. It is the process not the outcome we are all interested in next Saturday.”

When the season starts in earnest, Albanians will meet Bill Beaumont’s Fylde on September 7 and Shelford will entertain Launceston on the same day.

OA chairman Rory Davis was suitably upbeat about this new beginning.

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“This is our second season in National One and we are very proud of what we achieved last year”, he said.

“To be placed fifth in that exalted company was fantastic. Now almost everyone in this league knows how we like to play. However, we have similar insights into almost everyone else’s playing style so it will be fascinating to see who makes the most of this information.”

He added “I believe Andy [Holloway] has made a great start and the transition between James Shanahan regime and his own will be seamless, which is great news for the players.

“If the coming campaign is as entertaining as the last, Woollams will be a great place to be for the next eight months.”

The senior side will not be the only outfit taking the field next Saturday. The 2nd XV will turn out against their counterparts from Shelford and the 3rd XV will take on near neighbours Amersham and Chiltern.

Club coach Dave Griffiths pronounced himself very pleased at the numbers of players outside the senior squad who have presented themselves for pre-season training.

“We should be in a better position than we were last year since, for the first time, training has been coordinated throughout the club. Obviously we will not know how much we have left to do until well into the playing season but I think we’ve started well.”

Not to be outdone, the OA Saints have also been working hard for the past two months and are champing at the bit in anticipation of their first fixture against Reading Ladies on September 8.

Led this year by a partnership of Maddie Gunnell and Katie Jewell – chairwoman and club captain respectively – who say training and recruitment are proceeding in fine fashion, the ladies hope this year’s fixtures don’t suffer the same disruption as last season when so many opposing clubs pulled out of games at short notice.

Spokeswoman Caz Pretty said: “It was such a shame for so many girls to have put in all the preparation to be then let down by no fault of their own. It’s a tribute to them all that they are still with us. Happily we can still offer rugby to ladies from six to 60.”

Kick-off for the 1st XV is a 3pm. All are welcome and entrance is free.