Hampstead players will hit the weights as Breen aims to muscle in on the top sides next season

Hampstead's head coach Peter Breen. Pic: Paolo Minoli

Hampstead's head coach Peter Breen. Pic: Paolo Minoli - Credit: Archant

Hampstead’s players will be hitting the weights this summer as head coach Peter Breen eyes an improvement on the club’s sixth-place finish in London North West Division Two.

Dan Dimoline touched down twice on Saturday while captain Andy McEwen, Alex Brookes and player of the season Dan Wigley also scored tries – all converted by Dimoline – as the Hampstead Heath outfit completed their campaign with a 38-10 home win over Enfield Ignatians.

It has been a frustrating second half to the season for Hampstead, who won seven of their first 10 games and were second in the table in mid-December, only to lose eight of the remaining 12 and finish two points outside the top four.

Yet Breen feels the glass is half full and he will be keeping his players busy during the close season as he seeks to add some muscle to his side.

“It’s difficult because it went downhill a bit but we’ve ended up in a really good position,” he told Ham&High Sport. “It’s the first time in three seasons where we’ve won more than we’ve lost, and we’re one of the sides that people don’t really want to play when we’re on form.

“Two seasons ago we won three games out of 22 and we were whipping boys, and everyone’s aware of how far we’ve come.

“We weren’t a top-three side this year. Realistically, we could say we’re disappointed we’ve missed out on fourth place. What we’ve learned is that we should close out games when we’re not playing well and we’re winning – four times we lost the lead in the last five minutes.

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“I think that came down to the fact that a lot of the team were new. Often we were putting out a team where nine of the players were in their first season at the club, and I think those experiences have been learned. If we have a reasonable recruitment, which we often do, we’re very optimistic.”

Breen went on: “Once the ground gets hard again, like on Saturday, we’re pretty much anyone’s equal. We know the problem’s in the wet and there’s no substitute for a bit of weight.

“We’ll be running a training programme, holding strength and power sessions, for the next couple of months, which will be particularly targeting tight-five players.

“I’m thinking if we have roughly the same pack and it was able to put on 20 kilos between them… Most of our team haven’t lifted weights and would put on a lot of weight if they did a compound heavy lifting programme. In your first couple of months you can really pile it on.

“What we’re looking for is a five per cent all-round improvement in strength, power and weight. With that it’s realistic to win 15 or 16 games, so we’re quite happy.

“Also, because we do it in the middle of the running track in Hampstead Heath, it’s quite good for attracting players, so we’re aware that it’s a recruitment tool as well.”

Next season Hampstead will face local rivals Belsize Park, who have been promoted from London North West Division Three, and Breen said: “I think they’ll do well – the last three winners of our league have come up from the league below.

“This year it’s Fullerians, last year it was Harrow and the year before that it was Old Priorians. But last time London Nigerian came up they didn’t do too well so I think people have to come up and recruit, and most teams do.

“It’s going to be much tougher next year with those two [Belsize Park and London Nigerian] coming up, but also everyone’s a bit nervous because Harrow are being relegated, even though they won seven games in London Division One, which is a lot.

“They were way above anything else we’ve played in this level, and they’re kind of licking their lips at coming back down.

“I suspect it’s going to be tough so we want to improve by 10 per cent just to stand still and then the aim is to finally be a top-three team. I’d never say we’d win it - not with Harrow in it!”