The Lions have established themselves as potentially the Premier programme in the UK. While their men’s University team has struggled to round out their seasons in triumph over the past few seasons, the programme as a whole has gone from strength to strength – growing their involvement in almost every aspect of the British game and meeting with great success.
Integral to the growth of the Lions has been the superhuman commitment of Head Coach Wayne Hill, who will soon be approaching 20 years of involvement with the premier programme in Britball.
We got his thoughts about whether this year is finally the time for the Lions to return to Championship winning ways:
How would you summarise your season in ten words or less?
We have developed a tremendous amount of character this season.
What’s been the highlight of the year so far?
The highlight has been seeing the team grow and develop their own identity. We are a vey young team, so to see the younger players step up week in week out has been fantastic.
Is there one play from the entire season that stands out in your mind?
There hasn’t been a singular play that has really stood out. There has been some amazing contributions and times when we have witnessed players putting the team on their back and refusing to be denied.
What were your expectations of the players and team coming into the season? Have they been met?
We obviously were focused on winning every game, but with a young team we were unsure how this would manifest itself.
Obviously the first half of the season was positive and then we lost our focus against Imperial away and this was a real turning point for the team and the leaders on the team.
So, many players stepped up and this was evident in a tough game against Kingston where we just kept on fighting. Since then the players have kept on developing and this has shown with the results on the field.
Let’s talk about playmakers – on and off the field. Has a certain member of the coaching staff excelled? One of the game day crew particularly stood out? And who’s been really balling out on game days?
I absolutely Love our coaching staff. There is a great energy this year and they are so committed to film and sharing their ideas and thoughts.
Practice is a lot of fun and there is a lot of competition out there between the staff so that rubs off on the players. Some of the players enjoying giving the coaches some stick but I am always there to knock them down a peg or two.
From an off field gameday crew they are all so amazing and are contributing to the development of programme. From the medical team undertaking injury reviews and a new concussion protocol, to the stats team who continually develop the information for what the team needs so we can address our strengths, weaknesses and tendencies. We also have our film crew who enable us to watch so much practice and game film, and then finally we have our amazing photographer with the photos that so much capture the moment and are very precious in showcasing why we do what we do.
Your previous game – take us through it. What went right, what went wrong?
Durham are a fantastic team and with Coach Rooney there they have a strong foundation for development.
From a game point of view we had a gameplan that we were extremely confident in and the players really bought into and that allowed them to be in a position to play fast. Our energy was fantastic and that is a big thing for us. Every player on that field playing or on the sideline contributed towards that.
We had some big plays early on with coverage units and that really pushed the energy up. Anytime you see rookies or first year starters making plays in playoffs that pushes the excitement level up.
What’s your preparation been like coming into this game? Are there any roster issues, significant injuries that have you concerned, or aspects of your opponent’s game that you think will be particularly challenging?
As with any team the bye week helps with preparation and getting everyone healthy. We have tried to make sure the players haven’t been bombarded with gameplan in the first week.
However, our process still stays and the same and that is something we believe in. We are staggering the gameplan install as we don’t want them to get into it and start over thinking. This extra week between the games has given us an opportunity get better. In a season with back to back games you sometimes don’t get the opportunity to work on the fundamentals that you would work on in preseason and during the Christmas break so we have taken this week as a week to get better as football players and as a team.
And finally, what do you want to tell the world of BUCSball ahead of this game?
Stirling are a fantastic team and coaching staff. They have some major talent there and it is going to be extremely difficult.
We will be as prepared as we can be and I am confident we will contribute to a fantastic showcase of Student American Football, which in my opinion is the best football in the UK.
We are developing so many talented players at this level and this is evidenced in the previous success of the GB Student programme and how many current or former players will be involved in the GB Adult programme later this summer.
Our writing staff has this down as a Clansmen threepeat – but what are your thoughts about Sunday’s National Championship?