Head Coach Ronnie Heath has resisted calls to bring new players in the newly promoted Taunton Tigers Men's team. He will instead start the National League Division Two campaign with a roster made up entirely of Somerset based players.
Indeed, all of the squad and coaching staff are either born in Somerset or have gained their ‘Cider wings’ by having children here. Heath will not be swayed from his policy,
“People have said the same thing for the last three years but we continue to prove them wrong,”
“We have a great team spirit and players the fans can really associate with. I could bring in some size and experience but where am I going to find someone with the desire and potential of Tad Gray?”
The last time Taunton started a season in National League Division Two, the team was made up of players from Wales, Oxford, Coventry, Leicester, London, Cambridge and the USA. The club now however benefits from a junior programme that goes back 12 years, as new captain Graham Jones pointed out.
“I have actually coached most of the squad I play with now when they were 11 or 12 years old. We all share a love of the club that you can never quite get from recruiting outside the system.”
While many applaud Heath's policy of sticking with home grown youth, there are also many doubters who see the decision as naive. Maybe last weekend's pre-season performances against Leicester will keep the cynics at bay a little longer.
A narrow four-point loss (64 – 67) against the experienced National Division Two side on Saturday gave warning of the Tigers' potential. Matthew Nolan received the most valuable player plaudits demonstrating that he can easily cope with the step up of pace and intensity required this year. Even more significant perhaps were the performances of Alistair Bird and Dan Howe, who both demonstrated that they are maturing into all-round players.
Captain Jones was not content however and he took the team out to a restaurant that evening and insisted they turned up the next morning believing they could and should win against the Leicester Warriors on Sunday. It clearly had the desired effect as the Tigers' ran the Warriors off the court on the way to an 84 – 61 victory in the second match on Sunday with all 12 players contributing.