Hear what Adult Head Coach Junior Hayden had to say about the Adult team’s 2023 season…
“It seems strange that a year ago, I was sitting in the audience as part of my first ever Exiles end of season awards evening, to be the one writing this review as Head Coach of the Adult team, 12 months later. At the end of January 2023, Coach John Moore decided to step down as Head Coach and with his recommendation, I was offered the role as new Head Coach. It took me a few days to decide because I was fully aware of the task at hand, we had lost key players at the end of the previous season and started to have an exodus of renowned Exiles players leaving to other teams across the South East. How were we going to put together a team to not only play in the Premiership, but actually finish the season.
My first training session when I took over, we had 5 players in attendance. Just 5! My first task was to start recruiting and the obvious starting point was uniball players, I literally spent my weekends going to players from Brunel, Kent, Queen Mary and Imperial universities. It also helped being the HC at KCL. Through attending those games, speaking with players we managed to get an influx of young players, as we went into camp. However, we still had the cloud over the team, as to whether we would have enough players to start the season and individuals were still considering whether they were better off registering with another team. In this stage of the season, before our first game, we recorded that 30 players had left the team from the last game of the previous season.
Camp proved to be very successful and probably for the first time since taking over, things looked very positive for the team. Our goal was to be competitive in every game we played throughout the season, regardless of the scoreline. Going into the season, we had the hardest schedule of any team in the country for the first 4 games. First game London Blitz, followed by London Warriors, then Bristol Aztecs twice. Three of the best defences in the country, and two of the four play-off teams. With our limited numbers and lack of experience at this level, the schedule took its toll on the team.
Honestly, I think this season has been the hardest I’ve ever had as a coach or player. Yes, I’ve had a losing season before in my career as a coach and player, but not like this. It’s not fun and hard to keep motivated throughout the whole season. However, I promised Claire and Dave, when I took over, no matter what, we were finishing the season. And we did.
This took continued commitment and dedication, not just from me, but from the coaching staff, players and all our volunteers. So I would like to thank all that were involved in getting the Exiles men’s team through the season. You won’t know, how much this will mean for the club long term.
It is I think true that adversity reveals character. Our adversity certainly did that. It showed me who I could rely upon. I would like to take this opportunity to single out a few players who remained pillars of strength throughout. Felipe Silverio, Liam Jordan, Daniel Raeburn and Louis Jay.
Our rebuild has started, and being able to start afresh in Division One, may prove to be the best thing to happen to this team. We have a core of players who care and want to be apart of this club. We now need to add to this a mixture of experience and youthfulness to get this team back to where it needs to be.”