Matt Corker admits his first season as Canterbury Rugby Club head coach was a real learning curve.
They finished 12th in National League 2 South, with Corker having replaced Andy Pratt last year following the coronavirus health crisis.
But Corker says his squad, particularly his younger and more inexperienced players, can take plenty from the campaign.
He said: “It’s been a massive learning experience. I feel really lucky to lead a team like Canterbury.
“Next season is about learning from the experiences in the league last season.
“We have got a plan and we need to keep moving that forward. We know what end of the league we want to be at.
“It’s a fantastic club and it’s really embedded in the community. It’s going from strength-to-strength, with the 3rds being named champions. We have got a really good wheelchair section as well.”
Some players have opted to leave the club, although Corker said he wouldn’t rule out any of them making a return to Merton Lane. For now, voids to fill in Canterbury’s first-team squad will present opportunities for 2nd XV players.
“The thing for me is getting relegated is always tough and trying to bounce back is a real challenge,” Corker reflected.
“With Covid as well, we have had a pretty deep rebuild as a club. It’s been great and a real privilege as a coach to see how the group has come on. They have developed loads.
“We have had to say goodbye to a few players, which is always sad, although that may not be forever.”
Pre-season will start on July 21 and Corker added: “I think we made some really good progress and I know that may not necessarily have been reflected in the results.
“Hopefully we can bring one or two in and the guys that were in their first season at that level will not be in their first season any more so hopefully they can kick on.”
As part of an RFU restructure, Canterbury will be in National 2 East for the 2022/23 season while their 2nds will play in Counties 2 Kent.
Meanwhile, a £30,000 fundraising initiative will see all of Canterbury’s teams and age groups provided with lifesaving defibrillator equipment.
The club have passed their fundraising target and are getting 24 defibrillators from London Hearts, the UK’s leading defibrillator charity. They have also secured the money for enough batteries and extras to completely replenish their defibrillators in three years’ time.
Chairman Giles Hilton said: “I am proud of the efforts of our club in raising this incredible amount of money.
“Having this many defibrillators at the club - and therefore in the community - could make all the difference to someone, and that makes it all worth it.”
Several Canterbury players have been called up for the European Touch Rugby Championships at Nottingham in August.
Max Howard and Vaughn Meredith will be part of the Men’s Open team looking to retain the crown they won in 2018.
Danni Gregory and Erin Payton compete for the Women’s Open outfit and Eliot Nye is in the Mixed Open squad, along with Daniel Dyer (Men’s 40) and Adrian Riggs (Men’s 50).