Pontypool RFC Chief Executive Officer Ben Jeffreys is feeling optimistic that recent changes made within the club will help propel their promotion bid next season.
In a stop-start season full of highs and lows, big wins and disappointing losses, Jeffreys believes he and the rest of the management team have come together to shape a structure that will improve the club and the way it operates going forward.
“It would be disingenuous of me to say that it hasn’t been a tough season, it has been a challenging one,” said CEO Jeffreys.
“COVID has been hugely disruptive and just when we started the season and was getting some positive momentum we suffered a significant shutdown over the Christmas period.
“We’ve got clubs like Beddau RFC who are trying to refuse to meet their obligations in fulfilling fixtures and it’s really challenging when we operate professionally and want to play rugby and then you have clubs like that, which make a mockery of the league.
“If there has been one thing that has been the most problematic this season it’s been continuity and I don’t think that’s reflective of us as a club or where we are.
“It’s been a very disjointed season, we came back a lot earlier than we were anticipating and were playing catch up a little bit.
“There have been a couple of results that have been disappointing and we are aware that for the first time in probably five years we have been questioned as management, as a coaching group, as a squad and as a club.
"It’s really important when that happens that you push the noise to one side and remain focused on identifying where we can improve as a club.
“I think that’s the most important thing about us as a group, that we’re incredibly honest and we never have a sense that we are perfect and not able to improve.
“Since the Bargoed RFC defeat we’ve regrouped, we’ve reflected on things, made some changes in terms of personnel but also the way we are going about our business.
“The last two performances against strong Gwent opposition in Bedwas RFC and Cross Keys RFC demonstrates the talent we have in our squad and the most important thing for us now is that we finish the season as strongly as we can and generate some positive momentum.
“I’m very confident and optimistic that what we are doing now will serve us well into the future, and most important next season, which is of much greater significance than this season.”
There have been a couple of changes within the group, with Jamie Hallam and Gareth Rusby-Davies both departing, but Jeffreys believes the plans that are in place, which include new appointments to the management team, will benefit the club moving forward.
“Ultimately you have to reflect and there are times when you have to eliminate inefficiencies in the best interests of the club. The changes we have made over the past couple of weeks will serve the club very well going forward,” Jeffreys explained.
“We’re going to be introducing a new rugby operations manager position, which we are recruiting for at the moment, and that will replace the team manager and secretary roles so it will become one new position.
“Of equal significance is that we are close to appointing a new backs coach to replace Tom Hancock, which has undoubtedly impacted us this season.
“We’ve been very clear with supporters and within the group that this season is one for us to be patient and take our time and make sure we make the right appointment as it is such a key role.
“We’ve been questioned for the first time in many years and while that can be uncomfortable, we’ve really had to stick to our guns because we know the work we are putting in behind the scenes will pay dividends moving forward.”
Despite the shake-up in personnel Jeffreys insists the main goal remains the same and everybody is united in wanting to see Pontypool return to the Premiership.
“Once we make some positive announcements over the next few weeks the supporters will undoubtedly have confidence that as a management and as a club, we are very much focused on having a structure in place to compete for promotion,” he said.
“We are well aware we have to get the job done next season and if we have to go through a bit of pain, which we have done this season, to progress and move forward then it is absolutely worth it.
"I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens over the next few weeks and the next 12 months because we have everything in place to compete for promotion.
“Equally we are aware of the perception that we are probably not favourites for next season now and it’s up to us to right that perception and make sure we are front and centre when it comes to playing rugby next season."