Coach Steve Boden excited by potential of Doncaster Knights but Championship waiting game still frustrating

His new-look squad is assembled, his plans are fully prepped and fresh ethos firmly in place; now Doncaster Knights chief Steve Boden just needs to be able to actually get coaching and start his reign in earnest.

By Dave Craven
Thursday, 9th July 2020, 11:08 am
Steve Boden
Steve Boden

The assistant coach formally stepped up to replace departing director of rugby Clive Griffiths in March when last season was essentially cancelled owing to the coronavirus.

By now, Championship clubs are normally in full swing with pre-season training as they start building towards the new campaign but, of course, this summer is different to any other.

With players still on furlough, there is still no word yet when full training will resume – mainly because no one knows when the 2020-21 campaign will begin.

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Ordinarily, the season starts in September but, given Covid and the crippling financial effects of playing behind closed doors, Championship clubs have agreed not to resume until crowds can enter their stadiums.

That, of course, depends on Government lockdown rules being relaxed which might not happen for a number of months.

As frustrating as it is, Boden conceded that Knights cannot, therefore, look to welcome players back into the fold until they know more.

The former Yorkshire Carnegie coach said: “We haven’t got a start date for the season. If we brought the boys in now, the pre-season could be about 25 weeks long. It’s a mentally tough period as it is.

“So we are just sitting and waiting. There’s so many rumours going around and they are just rumour. There’s talk about getting back as soon as possible but some are saying it could be October, November or even January.

“The unknown bit is the toughest part. By the time we get into pre-season, though, we’re hoping a lot of this really high protocol around Covid will have dropped a little bit.

“If there’s declining infection rates, there might not be as much need for as much testing etcetera but I don’t know and no one does.

“We are hoping for positive news soon and are confident of a ’20/’21 season taking place.”

Although some clubs have put their recruitment on hold because of the pandemic, Doncaster have now announced 13 new signings in recent weeks with Boden – placing an emphasis on young, hungry and talented players – having his squad in place. It is just unfortunate, then, he cannot start implementing his ideas with them.

Boden conceded: “It is hard. It’s really exciting about what you want to do: the new signings we have, getting a fresh start and a new start for the club, pushing it in the right direction.

“But you can’t really start that. It’s out of your control.”

That said, he is delighted with being able to get so much business sorted.

Boden explained: “The idea around the recruitment model is that they all have growth in them; they have the potential.

“It doesn’t mean they are going to do it. But they have the potential to kick on and play higher-level rugby.

“That means some of them might have had a taste of it before but haven’t been consistent enough to stay there in the top flight. Some need regular game-time and some have come through a different pathway to the academy system and they saw an opportunity here.

“As a coaching team, we’ve seen enough in them all to say ‘if he works hard on this and this and applies himself right, he’s got a chance of doing it’.

“We’ve got some experience in there as well and that’s just as important. It is exciting.”