Bristol Sonics will now begin their Conference League South campaign after Easter, delaying their first appearance in this year’s competition by three weeks.
The Sonics were forced to request the postponement and rearrangement of fixtures with Nottingham Outlaws and Oxford Cavaliers due to a mix of injuries and unavailability leaving the squad threadbare. The Sonics will now start their season on Saturday April 11th, when 2014 Conference League South champions Valley Cougars visit Landseer Avenue.
The Sonics continue to train on Monday nights at Landseer Avenue, home of Dings Crusaders RFC, in preparation for an extended campaign that runs until September. All potential new recruits and existing squad members are encouraged to make these sessions, or contact Dom Swann or Wes Rodgers as soon as possible to register their interest in being involved this season.
Player/coach Dom Swann, one of a trio of coaches spearheading the Sonics first team squad in 2015, said: “It is with great regret that we announce the postponement and potential rearrangement of our first two fixtures. We did everything in our power to try and get a side on the park for these first two weeks, but a number of injuries and unavailable players meant this was impossible. We are struggling right now, but things will improve over coming weeks and I’m confident that by April 11th we’ll be in a much stronger position. Going forward, we are working hard to recruit players and expand our squad significantly so that we do not have issues later in the season.”
Bristol Sonics Chairman Phil Cole said: “I’d like to put on record my thanks to the Rugby Football League, Nottingham Outlaws and Oxford Cabaliers for their understanding with regards to this matter. We pride ourselves in getting a competitive team out and it was with a heavy heart that myself and other members of the committee made the call to try and switch things around. Helpfully the RFL has built blank weekends for rearrangements into the schedule, so we hope to use these if possible.
“The last 12 months have been particularly difficult for the Sonics, after many years of growth. Although there are many positives to be taken, including the amount of our junior academy graduates joining the Rugby League Academy at SGS College, we need to take steps to ensure that this translates itself into a stronger, more vibrant first team squad. We have not been helped by decisions out of our control, with regards to changes in Rugby League in the region. We have previously made clear our feelings about these decisions, and their possible affect on the Sonics, not just now but in the long term. While we cannot blame our problems on these decisions, it is very obvious that they have not helped.
“We believe that this is a minor setback. We have a long term plan to grow and strengthen the grassroots of the game in Bristol and South Gloucestershire, something we have been committed to for some time. This includes running more than one side at adult level, and, more importantly, a range of teams at junior and youth level, something that is otherwise severely lacking in the region. We believe this is the way to ensure that Rugby League takes root in the West of England. This kind of long term approach will be of benefit not only to us, but also the professional player performance pathway operated by SGS College and the University of Gloucestershire All Golds semi-professional club. Unlike some other clubs, we believe that success at first team level is all the sweeter if it’s the result of a period of organic growth and junior player development.”