Sidmouth skipper looks ahead to the new campaign for the Blackmore men
- Credit: Archant
Sidmouth skipper Olly Pyne is confident the South West One new boys will hold their own following promotion last season, writes Conrad Sutcliffe.
Sidmouth are back in South West One five seasons after they crashed out of it with just two wins and a draw in 26 outings.
The Green Machine had earned promotion as runners-up behind Paignton out of Western Counties West in 2007-08 and survived for five seasons before dropping back.
Pyne played in the last promotion winning side and in South West One with Sidmouth before challenging himself at a higher level with Exmouth.
Having played at National Three and National Two level with the Cockles, and earned player of they year, Pyne returned the Blackmore at the start of the 17-18 season as Sidmouth started assembling a squad for a promotion push out of Western Counties West.
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Sidmouth missed out in year one - they were a distant sixth behind promotes St Ives and Devonport Services - but last season they pipped Crediton by two points to claim the automatic promotion place. Crediton went up via the play-offs.
Pyne has played at South West One level - and higher - so knows what to expect.
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Although Sidmouth have lost some key players during the close season, in particular points scorers, Pyne has no qualms about the winter ahead.
"With the core of six or seven senior players at the club and some exciting youngsters making names for themselves, we should be fine in this division," said Pyne.
"Playing in South West One is something we will have to grow into, but I am confident we will be able to do that.
"Having played in South West One before one of the first things we will face will be well-organised packs of forwards who will aim to dominate the set piece.
"To get on the front foot and put opposing sides under pressure, we need to win our own set piece.
"If we put in good performances at home I am sure we will be fine."
Pyne puts himself in that core of senior players along with Josh Bess, Dan Retter, Sam Medham, Nick Mills and James Powell, among others.
If Pyne has a worry it is the strength in depth needed to be competitive on the road. Unlike many clubs in South West One, Sidmouth don't pay players, which has benefits and disadvantages.
Paid players are less likely to drop out of games due to work or other commitments, but Pyne subscribes to the Sidmouth policy that paying players is not the way ahead for a modestly-sized town club.
"We don't pay and I would not like to see us start doing it to attract players from outside the area," said Pyne. "We stand or fall with what we have got.
"Where we will struggle is with depth in the squad if we get a lot of injuries or players dropping out of away trips."
Gone from last season in the backs are Ethan Mead (Reading University), Luke Wells-Burr (living in Bristol) and match-winner Rory O'Brien, who has joined the Royal Marines.
All three scored tries in the promotion campaign and in O'Brien's case kicked goals and made try-saving tackles too.
Veteran prop Mark Unsworth has asked not to be considered for 1st XV selection.
"To be fair he is 46 now and I can't say that I blame him," said Pyne.
Two players Pyne hopes will have breakthrough seasons are colts pair Jed Reid and Kieran Warren.
"Jed is a hooker, Kieran a flanker and both have looked very sharp at training," said Pyne.