EAST RIDING captain Andy Woodhead acknowledges that, while his side placed third in the Yorkshire Inter-District League's final table, they were “quite a way behind” champions Sheffield and runners-up York.
But a rousing finish, their 26-10 defeat of Teesside, and 2017 fixtures that give them home advantage against both Sheffield and York sees him looking forward with great relish to the new campaign.
“After previous years I was quite happy to finish third,” he says. “I think we have only got a couple of players with plus handicaps at the moment.
“I have just struggled for a team all year and I think there were two instances where I was phoning around on the Sunday morning trying to get players.
“With the way the fixtures fall this year we have got York and Sheffield at home (at Beverley & East Riding, and Brough respectively) and if we play with locals with local knowledge... I'm looking forward to this season - as long as I can get the players to commit.”
He adds: “We have had a big discussion with the players about the commitment for this year, I feel if they can commit then we can compete.
“Sometimes if they have been playing for Yorkshire or another event on the Saturday they don't always want to play on the Sunday as well. Added to which you have got a lot of young lads now who are turning pro.
“You can't blame them if that's what they want to do, but it weakens the team and I end up relying on the more senior players who are in their thirties or over. They always make themselves available whereas the younger ones are looking to play in the Yorkshire regional events. Again, I understand that as well.
“But I think the older you get it is still an honour to play for the union; the likes of myself and some of the more senior players are bitterly disappointed when we lose.
“I don't always see that sort of commitment in the younger ones - it is not right across the board - but with some of them there isn't that commitment; it is just a free Sunday out whereas the more senior players, we go out to win and are very disappointed when we don't.”
Woodhead emphasises that exceptions among the junior ranks include Bridlington's Matt Raybould and Joe Allenby, of Hessle, both of whom performed well.
And Woodhead himself has led by example on and off the course, sharing the honour of the union's player of the year with Brough club-mate Mark Woodall and Brdilington's Nick Raybould.
“I was leading by two points going to the final game (against Teesside) and they won their singles in the afternoon,” recalls Woodhead, “It left me on the final green having to two-putt from about 15 feet and I did that and there was a three-way tie on points gained through the season.”
As he is to become the union's president in 2018, this year will be his last as captain having been in the post for four years so far.
“I've got the target to do the best we can in my last year and then I will take the president's role,” he says.
Look out for reviews and captains' thoughts on Sheffield and York unions - online on Monday