Published: 00:00, 31 August 2018
Medway have strengthened their squad over the summer but they aren’t the only ones.
Head coach Taff Gwilliam is expecting London 1 South to provide an even tougher test for his team this season.
Their new campaign gets underway on Saturday at home to Havant, one of several sides who are expected to mount a challenge for honours.
Gwilliam, who led Medway to the promotion play-offs last season, said: “We were runners-up last time but we are taking nothing for granted.
"There are some very strong clubs that have come down, including Camberley and Westcombe Park, strong clubs who are very ambitious and there are a number of other clubs like Tottonians, Brighton and Chichester who have all strengthened their squad and are looking to push on as are our first opponents Havant.”
Medway finished second behind CS Rugby 1863 in London 1 South last season, missing out on promotion after defeat to Chingford in the London League play-off final.
Gwilliam said: “We had a small squad last season and it was a very good season despite the disappointment of just falling short. I was really pleased because we had a young squad.
“The key is about developing the strength of our squad and that was where we fell short last season. Had we managed to maintain the strength of our squad throughout the season then we would have had a better chance of going up.”
Medway have worked hard to bolster their ranks, bringing in Lewis Stimpson and Gary Beck from Maidstone to strengthen their front row, while Ryan Redmond has returned to the club, joining from Tonbridge Juddian.
Gwilliam will also be able to call upon fit-again duo Charlie Wardzynski and Richard Petch.
Last season’s lack of numbers did at least enable to club to blood some youngsters, with Dan O’Brien and Sam Sharpe impressing with the 1st XV.
“We’ve got a nice balance,” said the head coach.
“We’ve signed a couple of lads and have got four or five that we have developed through our own programme. We are creating depth and competition for places.
“Rugby really is a big family and we do all talk to each other and by listening to other clubs people have strengthened. London 1 is a threshold into the next level of rugby. Everyone is looking to strengthen.
“There are many ex National League sides are in the league, like Westcombe Park, clubs that want to be back up there and we fully expect the league to be stronger than last year.”
It was one win apiece between Medway and Havant last year, with both sides making home advantage count. It could well be another clash of styles, with Gwilliam’s side playing their expansive brand of rugby against a team who have been more power based.
“It will be interesting to see what they come with,” said the coach.
“It will be a challenge for our young side and we play Havant and Chichester early on. A couple of boys are getting married and so there are availability issues in the next few weeks. We have ambition but we are respectful of everyone else and there is no divine right.”
Medway will be showing off their newly expanded clubhouse from this weekend, boosted with a successful appeal to raise £10,000 to furnish the new facility. That target was smashed.
Gwilliam said: “We are making improvements on and off the field and that’s great for the community.
“The club have done extremely well to raise the funds needed and we’re delighted with the end product, the builders and craftsman have done a great job.”
The clubhouse will be officially opened on Saturday, September 15, when they welcome Chichester to Priestfields.
More by this authorLuke Cawdell