06:00PM, Saturday 30 May 2020
As a Rugby World Cup winner with England and a former British and Irish Lion, Will Greenwood sets and expects high standards from others.
And when Maidenhead RFC’s players fall below those standards he admits he struggles to hide his disappointment.
“Sometimes on a Saturday afternoon I think ‘what the f*** am I doing down here with this mob?” he says.
Greenwood, who helps coach the Braywick Park outfit on a voluntary basis, is only half-joking when he says this, reflecting on a season which he believes probably should have brought the club promotion.
It’s this desire and drive, this unwillingness to accept second best that’s taken Greenwood to the pinnacle of his sport. And now he’s intent on instilling this in others and dragging them up to his level of expectation by their bootstraps.
“This season the players have put themselves in a position where they can collectively look themselves in the mirror and say ‘we’ve missed an open goal here’,” he says. “It sounds like a negative, but it’s actually a huge positive. We’re at the stage now where we need to start demanding higher standards of each other. But we’re also at a point where people are starting to sit up and take notice and say ‘what’s going on at Maidenhead’.
“That doesn’t mean we’re the finished product. Over the last three of four years Bracknell and Newbury have enjoyed giving us massive bloody noses and sitting us down on our a***s in local derbies.”
Promotion from a season truncated by the coronavirus was awarded to Barnstaple last month.
They were by far and away the league’s most consistent side, despite being bulldozed 43-14 by David Mobbs-Smith’s Maids in the final match before all sporting fixtures were stopped due to the virus.
“I was never worried about the Barnstaple game at home,” Greenwood reflected. “This club has the ability in one-off games to beat anyone in this league, like they did last year, like they always do to the league leaders.
“People will say ‘wow, where did that performance come from? And I’ll say ‘that’s been there all chuffing year!’
“They just haven’t always been able to bring it to the party on a Saturday afternoon.
“The handling comes from having better body angles, having your head over the ball, going forward into the tackle, by bossing the contest and off-loading, by playing on the front foot and through the channels.
“We’re not playing against the bloody All Blacks.
“For me there’s no self congratulation after a win like we had over Barnstaple (back in March). I know they can do that. My challenge to this group of players is ‘can you do it when it’s not the top of the table side?’, ‘Can you do it away from home?’, ‘Can you do it when the league isn’t on the line?’. Because actually the league is always on the line.
“They’ve got to understand that all points count the same. The points you get in October and November are the same ones you get in March. Don’t be reactive to the position you’re in in February. Go out and grab it in October and play to your level every single week.”
Next season Maids will play in the London & SE Premier League, after a sideways switch from the South West Premier.
They’ve come a long way since Greenwood casually turned up to train with the side nearly five years ago and they’re continuing to move in the right direction, pushing to improve, season after season.
It’s what’s kept Greenwood involved at the club, but he says he’ll be gone the moment the club loses that ambition.
He added: “It doesn’t matter where we end up. But the second this club decides it’s had enough and doesn’t want to be any better, then I’ll go down the road. I’ll take up table tennis or something. It doesn’t matter where you end up, it’s about wanting to do better every time.”
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