Hampstead’s head coach wants to bring the fun factor back for new campaign

Hampstead in action last season. Pic: Paolo Minoli

Hampstead in action last season. Pic: Paolo Minoli - Credit: Archant

Hampstead’s head coach Peter Breen says his primary aim is to bring the fun factor back to the club and make sure his squad “start enjoying playing rugby again”.

Hampstead, who train at Parliament Hill athletics track and play their home games on the Hampstead Heath extension, finished 10th out of the 12 teams in London North-West Division Two last season, one place above the drop zone.

Breen told Ham&High Sport: “After last season’s debacle and near disaster the main aim was to stop things getting any worse. I think that’s been achieved already.

“In addition, we want the players to start enjoying playing rugby again – and nobody enjoys losing, as we did 17 times last season.

“If we manage to win more than half our games and play lots of beautiful and attractive rugby along the way then we will have done an extremely good job.

“We would hope that our style of play and exciting brand of rugby attracts new players, and indeed some fans to our home games.

“A large bunch of properly-entertained supporters on the touch-line who then come for a drink at our new clubhouse The Duke of Hamilton will be a sign of a good season.”

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As usual, there have been a host of changes to the Hampstead squad during the summer.

“As a club we probably have the highest turnover of players from one season to the next of any club outside the Premiership,” said Breen.

“Due to our location and simply fantastic training area, in the middle of the running track at Parliament Hill, we attract many newcomers.

“A huge number of these are either from overseas and new to London or are recent UK graduates, who are again new to London. I think we have more than 40 new names on our players list – at least six to nine of them will trouble us selectors of the first XV – and we have probably lost about 25-plus.”

While there have been comings and goings in the squad, Hampstead are starting their second season under Breen, who says he learnt a lot from the last campaign.

And, unlike last year, the head coach has been present throughout pre-season – a factor he feels could be significant.

“I learn from almost every game and training session I have ever been part of,” he said. “If it is true that one learns more from defeat than from victory then last season I must have earned my rugby Phd!

“I came to the club after pre-season last year and could see that that period had been wasted. So the main lesson I learnt is that no matter how hard one tries, and even with all the tactics in the world, no coach can make up for lost time.

“I also learnt just how brave, loyal, unselfish and tough some men are willing to be in the face of adversity. I hope that these characteristics, and a good pre-season, will prove a foundation to a much better season.”

The future looks bright for Hampstead’s junior section, which is now entering its fifth season and sees more than 200 kids training on the Heath every Saturday – and Breen is also keen to welcome more senior players.

“Training and recruitment is still ongoing,” he said. “We are a very good club for university students – undergraduate and graduates – to belong to and look forward to meeting any students heading to London for the start of term, who are looking to improve their rugby and meet any number of good contacts.

“We would also really welcome engagement with those already in the area who are perhaps gym devotees and have not stepped up to the Heath to get involved.”

Hampstead kick off on Saturday at home against newly-promoted Harrow. Breen said: “They’ve been flying up through the leagues in recent years so they’re used to winning.

“I think they’ll look at us, see that we finished third from bottom last season and think that they’ve got a real gift – but we’re a different team now. It will be interesting, it should be a good game.”