Steve Boden empowering Doncaster Knights' young players to lead ahead of Championship trip to Nottingham

Steve Boden is backing his young players to be brave enough to make mistakes as his evolving Doncaster Knights squad heads to Nottingham on Friday night.

Knights were the upstart team of the 2021/22 Championship season, taking the second-tier title fight right to the last weekend of the season before succumbing to Ealing Trailfinders.

Big-spending Ealing then beat Doncaster in the opening game of this new campaign at the start of September, but it was in the days after that defeat that Boden discovered the true strength of his squad.

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While Doncaster do not have the finances to compete with the likes of Ealing, they do have other attributes that serve them well.

Doncaster Knights head coach Steve Boden. (Picture: Tony Johnson)Doncaster Knights head coach Steve Boden. (Picture: Tony Johnson)
Doncaster Knights head coach Steve Boden. (Picture: Tony Johnson)

“Our commitment and endeavour in that first game at Ealing was excellent, but our accuracy was poor,” said Boden.

"The most pleasing thing was the boys came in Monday and came up with all the answers, I didn’t really need to say anything. It was a good sign that our group, our environment, is in a good place again.

"We knew we weren’t accurate and that it wasn’t us, so it was a case of let’s get back to it being us.

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"We’ve got a really young group, our average age is only 24. To get leadership you’ve got to promote it, and we do do that here. You can’t expect people to lead if you’ve never let them lead and make a mistake.

Steve Boden on his team's maturing leadership (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)Steve Boden on his team's maturing leadership (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)
Steve Boden on his team's maturing leadership (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

"We had a few examples last year of people saying we should have done this, should have done that and we’ve got no leadership.

“But they’re a young group. The only way you get to become a good leader is by making a lot of mistakes.

"And we accept professional sport is a tough grounding to make them in. But if myself, Joe Ford, Nathan Smith and Tyson Lewis (fellow coaches) are telling them every single thing to do, every decision, then how are they going to get better at making decisions.

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"I think we’ve got some good leaders in the group, we’re confident in them and we’ve got to back them.”

Doncaster certainly responded to that opening defeat, winning on their next two outings against Hartpury and Richmond.

The amount of points they conceded in beating Richmond in particular at Castle Park last Saturday - 24 in their first home game of the season – was cause for alarm, but the fact they scored twice as many points themselves suggests they are on the right track.

Friday’s opponents Nottingham have also won two of their opening three fixtures and Boden knows they will be in for a typically physical game at Lady Bay against familiar second-tier opponents. They go into the match with a mini injury-crisis in the front row which has prompted Boden to try to bring in reinforcements.

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"We’re on a real bad run of injuries, all just come in the games, not in training,” he said.

"We’re in a tough spot at the moment but it’s a good test for our environment to see if we can get through it. We went through a lot of adversity last year but we found a way through. There’s always going to be tough times. It’s never plain sailing with the squad size we’ve got.”