Ambitious on and off the field in the wake of their new changing facilities, director of rugby Neil Hayton is setting his sights firmly on a title challenge despite their unbeaten record having finally fallen at Sunderland.
“We are aiming for promotion this season, and the players are very clear on that,” he said.
“They were crestfallen when our unbeaten run was ended at Sunderland the weekend before last, but the top two go up automatically in this division and we are still very much in that equation.”
Assessing the runners and riders, Hayton said: “It seems to be between ourselves, Sunderland and Ryton, who both got relegated into our league at the end of last season.
“They are obviously keen to bounce straight back, and both seem to have regrouped. Sunderland’s forwards were very well-drilled when we played them, and that was a good learning curve for us. Their line-outs were immaculate, and they put us under massive pressure. People are already aiming to take out our try-machine Steven Scott, who has scored more than 20 times this season. He is absolutely flying down his wing, and is very much a big part of what we are trying to do here.”
Putting much of Whitley Bay Rockliff’s success down to new blood on the management team, Hayton said: “Jack Lambert came in as our coach midway through last season, and he has made a big difference. He is an ex-player who coaches at Tyne-Met College as his day job, and has brought a really professional approach to the role.
“We lost five players from last season, through a mixture of work and joining other clubs, but Jack is a young lad who has come in and done really well. Training has been very enjoyable for the players, and some of the older lads are saying they are learning new things even after playing senior rugby for more than a decade in some cases.
“He has done all his coaching awards, and is really organised. The brand of rugby has been superb, and we have a young team playing in an attacking style.”
Having had Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards as the guest of honour during this summer’s official opening of their new Lovaine Avenue changing rooms, Hayton is keen to capitalise on the feelgood factor.
“We are putting a huge effort into improving,” he said. “We are very much on the up. Jack is really up-to-date in the training he does, and it is great for young players to have access to all the latest techniques.” Looking to use their momentum to bolster numbers, the director of rugby added: “There will be people who have just moved to the area and are undecided about where they want to play their rugby. Our message to them is that there is a home here at Whitley Bay Rockliff for them, and that they will be made to feel part of it.
“We are actively after new players to come down and be part of our club. It is a really positive place to play, with a good level of coaching, and we train from 6.30pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Any new lads wanting to play will be made really welcome, and we have had the support of some good local companies in DA Chemicals and AMS Creative which has kitted the first and second teams out.”
Boasting an expansive style, Hayton said: “It is a very attacking way in which we are trying to play, tiring out some of the packs we are playing against.
“We probably don’t have the biggest forwards in the world, but we have scored more than 50 tries this season by moving the ball around and playing with pace.
“It is all attack-minded, and we aim to go from any area of the field. I suppose in a way it is like the Kevin Keegan team at Newcastle United, the Entertainers, even though we may end up coming unstuck when the party-poopers stick it up the jumper!”
Any players interested in joining Whitley Bay Rockliff are welcome to call coach Jack Lambert on 07885 365 202, or via email on firstname.lastname@example.org.