Gershlick hails Hendon’s commitment and team spirit after club’s promotion

Hendon's players pop open the champagne outside their clubhouse. Pic: Paolo Minoli

Hendon's players pop open the champagne outside their clubhouse. Pic: Paolo Minoli - Credit: Archant

President David Gershlick has hailed Hendon’s commitment and team spirit after the first team secured promotion on Saturday.

Club president David Gershlick and captain Cian Hynes enjoy Hendon's success at Saracens' Allianz Pa

Club president David Gershlick and captain Cian Hynes enjoy Hendon's success at Saracens' Allianz Park stadium. Pic: Paolo Minoli - Credit: Archant

The Dons beat fifth-placed West London 65-19 at Saracens’ Allianz Park stadium, finishing the campaign with a fourth successive victory which ensured they finished second in Herts/Middlesex Division Two and booked their place in Division One for next season.

For Gershlick, the scenes that followed the final whistle provided an instructive insight into why the team has been so successful on the field, and why the club’s future is looking bright.

“It’s about commitment, the quality of the players and them gelling together – that’s the main thing,” he told Ham&High Sport. “I saw it for myself afterwards in the celebrations. They went on into the small hours and that’s the sort of bonding you expect from a club.

“If they all broke up and went their various ways then you think ‘same old, same old’ but these boys wanted to know and a number of players who were injured just turned up to watch the game as well.

“That’s the difference I’ve noticed. They all stuck together in the clubhouse and then they all went off to The Bodhran - which is our club pub in Hendon Central – and I think they really got stuck into the rest of their night.

“I bought them a few beers at the club but I’m past all that. No disrespect, but they don’t want the president hanging about, they want to get on with their own enjoyment.

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“There’s real spirit in the club. Cian [captain Cian Hynes] had drafted in a couple of second-team guys for the match and as soon as the game was finished they jumped in their cars and went up to Biggleswade, where the second team was playing in a cup semi-final with the bare 15 players.

“They became the replacements – not that they needed the help because they didn’t get up there until the second half, and by then Hendon were already beating Biggleswade 17-3 or something. They’re in their final this coming Saturday.”

Hendon agonisingly missed out on promotion on the final day of last season but, 12 months on, they are reflecting on a triumphant campaign – and Gershlick feels the team are better equipped to make the step up this time around.

“Yes, definitely,” he said. “We just hope we can keep these boys together – it’s always a big ‘if’ because you don’t know what’s in the back of everybody’s minds. But I’m hoping they all do stick together and we can then look to recruit.

“I think Herts/Middlesex Division One should be our level, one that we should be able to sustain, and I don’t think we’ll let ourselves down next season because I feel the standard of rugby we’re now playing is good enough to maintain ourselves in the league.

“John Casalaspro, our coach, feels ‘why not look to get promotion from there as well?’ but I’m happy that we as a club are now sitting at a level that we will feel comfortable with.

“When we first joined the league in the mid-1990s we were actually in London North West Division Three, which was Level Eight, and we’re moving up now to Level Nine.

“We know we’ve played in Level Eight but I’m not looking for that at the moment. I feel comfortable with Level Nine as far as Hendon are concerned and it gives us time to look to our future and see what we can do.

“At least we can meet up with [last season’s promoted teams] Hillingdon Abbots and London French again next season, and it would be nice to give them both a pasting!”

Gershlick is keen to maintain the club’s progress and keep looking forward.

“We’re negotiating with the council at the moment for a long lease on the clubhouse,” he said. “I’d also like to feel that we start training maybe a week or two earlier than we did last year, beginning in earnest at the beginning of July.

“John McCarthy – a back-row forward who has been injured – is pushing to keep the boys together for sevens and to go into one or two tournaments during the summer, which keeps the club ticking over in that respect - but I think we’ve got to hit the ground running at the start of next season. We’ve got to be fit.

“We’ve got the ability, we’ve got the players there that can do the business. We’ve got to keep them interested, keep them going during the summer period, and I like to feel that we’ll start off positively for next season. We’ll look to recruit during the summer, too - those people who are coming to London and finding their feet.

“For next season I’d like to see if we can run three sides. We’ve talked about it for a long time. Some people think ‘maybe we should drop down a team’ - some of the ex-first team players have already done that. It would be good to keep the whole thing on the boil, to use the promotion as a recruitment tool.”