Doncaster Knights can be proud of Championship campaign as Steve Boden begins squad rebuild

Steve Boden believes his Doncaster Knights team can hold their heads high for their efforts this campaign despite statistically taking a backward step.

Knights, who are Yorkshire’s highest-ranked team in the rugby union pyramid, finished sixth in the second-tier Championship and reached the semi-finals of the league cup, having challenged for a title and placed second last season.

But head coach Boden believes there were extenuating circumstances that conspired against them this term, and for that his players deserve credit for not buckling and being sucked into the bottom half.

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“It’s been a tough year,” admitted the former Leeds Carnegie forward. “There’s been a lot of things outside our control, we’ve had a catalogue of injuries, 90 per cent of which were all from playing the game.

Doncaster Knights coach Steve Boden must oversee a big squad rebuild this summer. (Picture: Tony Johnson)Doncaster Knights coach Steve Boden must oversee a big squad rebuild this summer. (Picture: Tony Johnson)
Doncaster Knights coach Steve Boden must oversee a big squad rebuild this summer. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

“We’ve looked at why we’ve had those injuries but most of them are impact injuries which you can’t avoid when you’re playing rugby.

“That’s been tough to deal with, so credit to the staff, medical staff and other coaches, and the players, that they’ve stuck in.

“A lot of clubs would have crumbled. People are forgetting we’ve got a top-half finish in sixth and the semi-final of the cup.

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“If you’d have asked the club four years ago would they take that they’d have bitten your hand off, so I do think it’s a positive that we’re talking about it as not being as good a season because we’ve been competing to win the league the last two seasons.”

Boden faces a big squad rebuilding job over the summer with 21 players having informed the club they are moving on, either through retirement or up and down the divisions. It represents a higher turnover than in previous seasons and amounts to around 60 per cent of this year’s squad.

Boden, pictured, explained: “Last year we had 15 leave, so six more than that, it’s still a decent percentage of the squad, but we’re a small squad. They’re moving on for different reasons, but it’s sport. We have to show a bit of compassion and not stand in their way.

Recruitment is a year-round thing, if you take your finger off it you’re playing catch-up. We start our process around November, where we have gaps, where we need strengthening.

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“We still have quite a bit of business to do. Recruitment is tough because we can’t just throw a golden ticket at people. We’ll have to be patient and wait for the right people.”

To that end, Boden believes the club’s decision to launch a new foundation to engage the community and offer adult season-ticket prices for a cut-price £150 next season, is a sensible move.

“As we’ve seen around the county and the country, clubs are struggling,” he observed.

"The landscape of rugby has to change, people have had it too good for too long, at the end of the day its common business sense.

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“Our status as the leading club in Yorkshire is something we should be proud of. I’ve worked at Carnegie/Tykes, it’s testament to Doncaster, (benefactors) Tony De Mulder and Steve Lloyd and how much they care about the community that it has had this longevity.”