On Saturday the 43rd player to respresent the 1st XV this season, Ned Lockwood, pulled on a Minety shirt and played against Avonvale. That represents nearly three teams and means that quite probably, if every player registered to play for Minety was available on Saturday for two teams, quite a few would not even make the bench for the 2nd XV.
That’s not a criticism, that’s a fact of life. The days when a core of 25 players could be relied upon to populate the 1st and 2nd XV’s week in and week out have long gone. With the increased demands upon people’s social and “free” time, the necessity to take injuries, especially head injuries and their recovery so much more seriously, the challenge is to find sufficient players for one team let alone two.
The game has also moved on in terms of playing skills – forwards tend to be more mobile and specialist positions more skilled. So while the captains and coaches try to find sufficient players they also have to fit them around their own individual skill sets. 15 players, even the best 15 in the club, all playing out of position, will perform significantly worse than if they were in their accustomed positions.
And then there’s co-ordination. That comes from training, developing skills associated with certain plays and formations. The coaches can do all the work in the world on set plays on the training ground on a Tuesday night but much of that good work will be negated if only a fraction of those present on a Tuesday are there to put what has been worked on into practice on a Saturday afternoon.
That is not a criticism; it’s a fact of life, and not one that is solely Minety’s. Teams throughout the leagues are finding the challenge of putting out competitive teams more and more difficult. In the last week we have lost Supermarine’s 2nd XV from Division 3. Only two of the scheduled 5 matches in Division 3 actually went ahead and those games featured teams who field just one team, Bath Saracens and Amesbury.
So what do the statistics say? Benjamin, Benny to his mates, doesn’t have data on Tuesday night training session but he does have exhaustive data on 1st XV matches played this season, and this is what he has unearthed. He looked simply at the number of changes that occured in 1st XV line ups from week to week.
He found that the 1st XV has not put out the same lineup once this season. He didn’t have time to work out how many times players played in their best positions, but he was able to out together this little table:DateOppositionH / AWon / LostChanges% change8th SeptemberWarminsterAL 15th SeptemberRWBAW7 / 1741%22nd SeptemberCalneAW5 / 1729%29th SeptemberSupermarineAW6 / 1637%6th OctoberSutton BengerHW5 / 1729%13th October 20th OctoberTrowbridgeAL6 / 1637%27th OctoberAvonvaleHL8 / 1650%3rd NovemberCalneAW8 / 1747%10th NovemberWarminsterHW7 / 1643%17th NovemberChippenhamHW3 / 1618%24th NovemberDorset DockersAL9 / 2143%1st DecemberCombe DownAL5 / 1436%8th DecemberMelkshamHL6 / 1735%15th DecemberPewsey ValeAL4 / 1428%22nd December 29th December 5th JanuaryRWBHW6 / 1735%12th JanuarySupermarineHW6 / 1833%19th JanuarySutton BengerAL5 / 1533%26th JanuaryTrowbridgeHL7 / 1839%2nd February 9th FebruaryAvonvaleAL5 / 1533%
So what does it all mean? In essence, coach Andy Grayson was faced with making 7 changes in a squad of 17 players for the second game of the season; that’s a 41% change in personnel from the 1st match at Warminster. The smallest number of changes in consecutive matches came against Chippenham when there were only 3 changes, although they came from an availability that allowed for just one person on the bench.
The greatest percentage of changes came for the Avonvale match in October when 50% of the team were different from those who played the previous week.
Taken as an average over the season thus far, over a third of the team changes each week.
On two occasions Minety have started a match with less than 15 players and on 15 occasions we have had less than the usual 3 players on the bench. It’s easier to say that on only two league occasions have we had a full bench (and the Supermarine data is a little misleading because players who were less than fit and who came along to support the team were persuaded to play).
So far this season 13 of the 43 different playesr who have represented the 1st XV have made 2 or fewer appearances from 18 matches. That’s 30% of the players.
15 of the 43 players have made 10 or more appearances from 18 matches 35% of players.
Only 6 of the 43 have lodged 15 or more appearances from 18 matches. 14% of players.
The challenge for all involved with Minety, be they coaches, players, committee, supporters, is to to find a way of unlocking this conundrum – consistency is key and we, like so many others, cannot find it. Our challenge, irrespective of what others clubs think or do, is to step up and meet the challenge head on and forge a brighter future for the club.