Bristol Sonics will look to put the troubles of the past few months behind them when they start their West of England League campaign on Saturday.
Having withdrawn from the elite Conference League South competition earlier this year due to on and off-field issues, the Sonics have returned to their roots in the regional leagues, keen to rebuild the club from the ground upwards over coming years.
This weekend is a key part of that rebuilding process. Following the open age team’s game on Saturday, training for the Sonics Academy – the club’s hugely popular junior section – begins on Sunday morning (10am, Dings Crusaders RFC, Lockleaze). At noon on Sunday, the Sonics are also hosting an “open meeting” for those interested in Rugby League in the area to come down, hear the club’s plans, and volunteer to get involved.
First, though, the club will be concentrating on matters on the field, with an enticing season-opener against friends and local rivals Somerset Vikings on Saturday afternoon (Dings Crusaders RFC, 2.30pm, free entry).
The two clubs met briefly in last weekend’s South West 9s Competition, with the Sonics coming out victorious on their way to the semi-finals. This weekend, though, looks set to be a much tougher and more demanding contest, with the Vikings likely to travel up to Bristol with a strong side.
Sonics player/coach Dom Swann has also named a strong squad for the game. It contains no less than eight players with experience of the Sonics’ previous Conference League South campaign, including the experienced Verber brothers, full-back Mike Norman, centre Mike Gaston, and second-row Joe Singleton. They’ll be joined by a swathe of new players, including forward Byrone Jerome, who starred in the Sonics’ nines exploits last weekend. The squad also includes two graduates of last year’s Sonics Academy under-16 side, Connor Grant and Joe Moore.
Swann is genuinely excited by the season ahead. He said: “Everyone knows we’ve been struggling, and had to make some hard decisions over the winter about where our future lies, for the time being at least. Since withdrawing from Conference League South, the response from players has been excellent. Numbers at training have been up, and there’s a great team spirit developing. Players are enjoying their rugby again, which is hugely important.
“In some ways, it doesn’t matter how we get on this season in terms of where we finish, or whether we win any silverware. We have some goals, which I’m not willing to discuss, but to begin with we’re going to take it week by week, and try to develop as a team. I’m looking for a big start, but we’re not under-estimating Somerset – we’ve had some brilliant games against them in the past, and they’re always a tough side to play.”
Bristol Sonics face Somerset Vikings at Landseer Avenue, home of Dings Crusaders RFC, on Saturday 9th May, kick-off 2.30pm. Entrance is free of charge.