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Exiles Academy 2023 Season Review

Read what Academy lead Jack Lewis had to say about the 2023 season…

After a restructure to the U19 divisions this season, 2023 saw us set to face six different opponents in the regular season playing each only once, and we were excited to test ourselves against such a broad variety of opposition. With so many of last season’s starting players moving up to our adult team and/or moving away to uni this year, we were left with very few returning players on the squad and had to truly rebuild. Unfortunately, with our U16s unable to field a competitive team this
season, those of eligible age moved up to join us at U19. With some external recruitment on top of this, we put together a squad ready to prepare for a competitive season.

Game one was an extremely tough test from the outset away to the reigning and multiple-time U19 national champions, the London Blitz. This game was unfortunately a one-sided defeat, but an important introduction to a high level of play for our numerous rookie players. Game two saw another disappointing defeat, this time away to Rushmoor Knights who brought a great package to U19 this year, reflective of the hugely dominant performance of their U16 team last season from which many of their U19 players had progressed.

Game three was a forfeit win for us at home against Ipswich Cardinals who were unable to meet squad number requirements. Game four was a highlight for us as our players began to grow in confidence, find their rhythm and hit their stride around this midway point of the season, coming from behind at halftime to defeat the Solent Seahawks at our home ground. It was very encouraging for our predominantly young rookie squad to experience a win and carry this mentality forward.

Game five was a hugely frustrating one-score defeat at home against the London Warriors in a game that really felt like ours to lose, and finally game six saw us travel the short journey to face a familiar opponent in the South London Renegades with them securing a win against us this time in a hard fought contest and finish our season 2-4.

After extensive experience coaching at U16 and U19 with the Kent Exiles, this season ended with the difficult decision for me to step away from the club on good terms for various personal and logistical reasons. Despite disappointing results, the Exiles U19s are currently a very young squad who will only grow in ability, experience and confidence from here. As the head coach position going forward is still yet to be filled, the team have benefited from some fantastic positional coaching additions this year, such as Coach Chris Redman moving up from U16 coaching to work with linebackers, and Coach Adam Pearson bringing his expertise to the offensive line.

In a time of much change for the club as a whole, I firmly believe the U19s are on track to re-establish themselves as one of the premier teams at this age level in the UK, and I look forward to seeing their future success.

HC Jack Lewis celebrates his U17s contact team success at the National Championship level