03:00PM, Saturday 20 April 2019
Maidenhead RFC's players and coaching staff can look back on another successful season with real fondness, but for departing head coach Russell Bolton this marks the end of his four year journey with the side.
It's been some ride. When he took over from Allan Greene as coach in 2015 Maids had only narrowly avoided relegation from South West 1 East into Southern Counties North.
He instilled a tireless work ethic in the players and quickly changed the mentality to get the club motoring in the right direction. Promotion – as league champions – followed and Bolton leaves a club that's now on the brink of promotion from the Southern Premier League.
“It’s hard to say because I don’t want to tarnish any of the good work that came before me,” said Bolton.
“But I think we just brought a fresh understanding of what rugby meant to the club.
“We freshened that up to get the best experience for everyone at the club.
“We also massively changed the style of rugby to suit playing on that pitch (3G). Word spread and players wanted to join us and it built from there.”
Quality players arrived at Braywick Park and Bolton was able to mould the team into a title winning one during the 2016-17 campaign. To go from being relegation candidates to champions in just two seasons is one of Bolton's proudest achievements.
“The facilities and people were there and all I had to do was come in and create a positive attitude,” added Bolton
“People started responding to it and we went from there.
“Winning the league against my old club Reading Abbey was special – I had mixed emotions that day because the win relegated them but we were pretty dominant throughout that season. The second was the way the club pulled together after Tony (Brooks) passed away – it showed just what this club is all about.”
The improvements have followed in the Southern Premier Division. The third placed finish in 2017-18 was pretty special but it was topped by this season's efforts. They finished the campaign 12 points better off and having gone tantalisingly close to second place and a play-off spot.
“I remember a quote from John Wooden, a basketball coach, saying a successful season is one where you've got the maximum out of your players,” added Bolton.
“I believe we were pretty close to that. I was disappointed not to get second – not because of the last few results but because at some point in the season we let things slip a bit. But I’m proud to have not finished lower than we did last season.”
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