Chapter One: From one season to the next
Last season was a very successful season for us at Saracens as we were crowned the champions of the inaugural Tyrrells’ Premier 15s. This was a tremendous feeling and a reflection of the dedication given by all of the players and staff involved in our journey. Off the back of this success, a merger has been agreed with the men’s team so that we could take the next step towards becoming one club and benefitting from the support of our hugely successful male counterparts. Despite all of these positive steps, the departure of Head Coach Rob Caine to USA rugby at the end of the season was a sad moment. However, a few months later our new Head coach Alex Austerberry was appointed, so I was excited to see how our new journey would begin.
This is my 10th season of Premiership rugby and this pre-season has been the toughest I have experienced in a club setting. Our new look strength and conditioning team led by Cieran Lee, has made us work extremely hard. Cieran has been setting the standards in training and pushed us through countless tempo runs and malcolms over the summer, alongside an extensive strength and power programme in the gym. It has been hard work, but we know as a collective we must improve from last season and for us being fitter, faster and stronger is a big part of that.
We retained 90% of our squad from last season and have also recruited smartly in key positions. Some significant new faces have joined including players returning from England 7s duty. Having Sarah McKenna and Vicky Fleetwood back with us has been a huge boost for the club. The skill level and intensity they bring to training, lifts everyone’s standards.
Since Alex’s arrival he has hit the ground running and already implemented some new things which have been great. We’ve had a good look at the way we play and put structures in place both in attack and defence, that suits our players and their skill set. So, as spectators you can look forward to more of the same exciting brand of rugby we have produced in the past, with new and improved tweaks. It’s this detail to training that we feel is going to take this squad to the next level and improve what we are producing on match day.
With the season already underway, we have started very promisingly, picking up a bonus point on the road to a much-improved Waterloo side. The Cleall twins were on fire for us that day; they are so destructive with ball in hand busting holes all over the pitch, giving us a great platform to play off. They are also very skilful and can often be seen off-loading to each other. We saw flashes of brilliance from our captain Lotte Clapp and she really stepped up a gear against Worcester in our first home game this season, picking up WOM for her efforts; the number of meters she made in the game was outstanding. A lot of unseen work goes on in the breakdown from the likes of Kat Evens, Sonia Green and El Perry; this has allowed us the luxury of playing with quick ball.
One more person to mention is Hannah Botterman, it’s crazy to think that this time last season in the opening Premiership game, she was sat on the bench for us nervously waiting to make her debut for the club…and what a season she has had; being called into the senior England Performance Squad (EPS) and getting capped for England, whilst still being eligible and touring with England under 20’s over the summer. She has now become an integral part of our team. I’m looking forward to watching her kick on this season and reap the rewards for a lot of hard graft she has put in throughout the off-season.
We also welcomed back the return of the injured Marlie Packer against Worcester last weekend; it’s great to have her back on the pitch looking fit, healthy and ready to go. With more players returning from injury over the next few weeks including Vicky Fleetwood, Zoe Harrison and May Campbell our squad is starting to take shape nicely.
We are fully aware that other teams have recruited well over the summer, particularly fellow top four finishing teams Wasps and Harlequins; however, we feel we have a strong squad to be able to compete. We are used to playing together, know each other’s strengths and attributes. These relationships take time to build. We are all on board with what we want to achieve this season and obviously defending the title is in the forefront of our minds. Winning the title back to back would be something truly special and something this group is very much capable of achieving.
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Georgina Gulliver is represented by 2710 Entertainment.