CHRISTIAN SHORT: WHAT A START TO THE TOP 14

After our defeat against Toulouse we bounced back a week later in the derby match drawing it 9-9. I came off the bench for the last 12 minutes, the atmosphere was electric 15,500 people in the stadium the match was so close. The build-up to the derby is something special in the town, there is great buzz. These are the games that you want to play in as a professional sportsman, it was the same playing for Northampton v. Leicester. It’s just not an option to lose the derby game at home. The Brive supporters ‘Le Gaillarde’ are amongst the most loyal supporters they follow us everywhere.

So we had played three matches. Won one, drawn one and lost one. Played against Montpellier, Clermont-Ferrand last year’s runner up, and French heavyweights Toulouse in their back yard. What a start to the Top 14!

Personally I was struggling with form, I hadn’t had much game time, I had come off the bench in two games and played 80 minutes in another. It was hard to get any consistency and match fitness. Going into the week before the match against Perpignan was huge for me, I needed a big week’s training.

There is huge competition for starting places, everyone was fit and everyone wants to play, especially away to the current French Champions. I got the start.

The match was the first midweek game coming just five days after playing Clermont. It was a warm but wet night. The match couldn’t have started any better, we opened the scoring after three minutes with a penalty. We exchanged scores and we were playing in the right areas of the pitch. Perpignan then scored a try with a cross field kick on 30 minutes against the run of play, we 15-9 down. From the resulting kick-off I made a tackle on the nine, I caught him on the top of the chest as he kicked the ball. The crowd went mad. A fight broke out between the two teams as it often does, the nine from Perpignan made the most of the situation. And as a result I got a yellow card. We went into the break 18-9 down. The next 40 minutes was frustrating, we played some good rugby but made some simple mistakes. We were 21-9 down with 17 minutes left and we were forced to go after the bonus point. We needed to score a try, but came up short, we put a lot of pressure on Perpignan but couldn’t get within seven points. There were two other sin bins in the second half, so in total we played for 30 minutes of the match with 14 players. Just something you can’t do against Perpignan. Despite the loss we played some great rugby, there was a great spirit in the group, we all felt very frustrated with how the sin bins came about and the result of the match.

It wasn’t like Toulouse, we knew that we should have come away with a lot more. The good thing about the busy schedule was we only had three days till the next match at home, against newly promoted Albi. Unfortunately for Albi we took our frustrations out on them. We scored five tries and won the game 39-6. Back to scoring and winning ways.

That brings us to this weekend against Montauban, we lost narrowly 23-20. It a was a game we should have won outscoring Montauban three tries to one, the difference between the two sides came down to the boot of Montauban’s fly half Cedric Rosalen who kicked 18 points. We missed 22 points in total.

We dominated at the scrum and the breakdown area and we came away with our first away bonus point but it was a despondent dressing room after knowing we had left four points in Montauban.

We have Biarritz at home on Saturday which is a huge match to get back to winning ways and to keep fortress Brive in tacked. ALLEZ BRIVE!

CHRISTIAN SHORT: UP AND RUNNING

Welcome to my first blog. I have just played a match away to Montauban in the South of France. Montauban is the closest game to Brive geographically, however this is not the local derby – that is played against Clermont-Ferrand who we played three weeks ago, resulting in a draw. Yesterday’s game against Montauban was the sixth game in the Top 14, so far we are currently in seventh place. We have played against Montpellier, Toulouse, Clermont-Ferrand, Perpignan, Albi and Montauban a competitive start to the season.

It has been the most difficult start to the season I have ever experienced in playing six matches within 29 days. We have played in temperatures as high as 40 degrees in the second game against Toulouse and 37 degrees yesterday against Montauban. There were compulsory drink breaks every 20 minutes. The high temperature is something I have had to get use to. I wasn’t blessed with the most sallow skin so compulsory application of factor 30 plus before the games is a must for me.

With the season starting on 15th August the pre-season was very short. Returning to Brive on the 1st June gave us four weeks of training before our first pre-season friendly. It was a very intense four weeks of training. Integrating power, strength, conditioning and rugby. It was a frustrating pre-season for me. I had an ankle arthroscopy operation on the 19th May to clean out the ankle joint from repeated ankle injuries over the past three seasons. The rehabilitation took longer than I had anticipated. I missed the first two pre-season games against Toulon and Montauban respectively. I played 40 minutes against La Rochelle on 18th August a week before the first Top 14 game.

The game was frantic a hundred miles an hour, like all pre-season games. I was blowing. I didn’t feel match fit. I had spent a lot of time in the gym bulking up, combined with repeated off feet fitness sessions on the bike. I felt great, physically I was stronger and fitter than I had ever been, or so I thought! However there is no substitution for match fitness and I was a week or two behind where I wanted to be before the first competitive match.

I was on the bench for the first game against Montpellier playing 21 minutes in the second half. We won 30-9 getting a bonus point that left us top of the league. A trip to Toulouse was next on the agenda, but this was a different story. I played the whole match. We were 10-0 down after four minutes. Toulouse taught us a lesson on attacking rugby they won 38-0. Everything they did came off and when your 10-0 down after four minutes, its never a good start against the 17 time champions of France. We missed a couple of penalties and the pressure mounted. We were chasing the games.
Toulouse were very clinical. The better team.

David Wigley: Missing Out Again

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Well, I’ve missed out on the Championship game against Middlesex this week. Purely a form issue I think, and I agree – to a point! I had a belting first 3 months, picking up wickets regularly before the ridiculous structure of County Cricket meant that I then played only a handful of days’ cricket in a 6/7 week period. The momentum and rhythm I had gained was pulled from under my feet and I have been striving too hard to get it back.

However, it is that time of the season when everyone’s bodies start to fatigue and I’m sure I will still have a big part to play in the last 3 games of the season as and when required. Northants are in a very strong position going into these last 3 games. If we avoid a loss and pick up at least one win then we should find ourselves with a great chance of finishing in the top two, and therefore getting promoted to the County Championship Division One.

I take many positives going into the last month of the season despite my selection frustrations. Should we get promoted then I can take great pride in the fact that I have played 11 games out of a possible 13 so far, and this will hopefully increase in the next few weeks.

I am also really looking forward to a 5 month trip to Auckland this winter. I fly out in 4 weeks time to be the overseas professional coach and player at East Coast Bays Cricket Club. I have spent the last four winters training in Northampton and although these winters have been very productive, I do feel that I now have the knowledge and commitment to complete the same training whilst in the sunnier climate of North New Zealand! It means that I will also continue to bowl throughout the winter and can build up stamina and bowling fitness right into the English preseason.

This week, without a match, gives me the opportunity to sort out the disaster that was my kitchen ceiling/bathroom floor falling through yesterday afternoon! It’s a good job it fell down when it did really. Instead of landing on my girlfriends head whilst she prepared her lunch, it landed in an empty room whilst she sat in the lounge watching Neighbours on the TV eating said lunch. The countdown to getting everything fixed and decorated before our flight to the other side of the world has begun.

Until then, I find myself being more than sufficiently fed and watered by my girlfriend’s parents, who live just 20 minutes away! The combination of not playing and staying there will no doubt mean either an increase is body fat or several tough sessions on the bike or treadmill! Or maybe both!

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Bobby White: Hungary Calling

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While I was in France I received a call from A1 Bregenz Youth Academy Manager asking if I would like to accompany him in Hungary as he was one coach short for the trip. Three of the Bregenz youth teams were travelling to Veszprem for the Cell Cup Handball Festival. Having not been selected for the 1st team trip to a tournament in Germany, I thought it was a chance to get some valuable experience as a coach rather than as a player and further develop my understanding of the game. I would be coaching the U18 team, as it would be easier for me to communicate with the team in English.

It was a tough Journey, leaving from France at 14:00 on the Saturday and arriving in Veszprem at 21:00 on the Sunday with a 4 hour stop in Bregenz to re-pack my bag and get some sleep!

The U18 team of Bregenz will make up the bulk of the U21/development team that I will be a part of this season so it was a great chance for me to get to know the players and vice versa. The first game was a close contest between us and Konstanz from Germany. Markus took control of this game but I would be on my own for the remainder of the tournament. We won the game by one goal and I was very impressed with the determination and spirit displayed by the players. The next day we were due to play two matches. I was a bit nervous which is unlike me, but I don’t think the lads picked up on it and we won both games comfortably, perhaps with the help of some lucky tactical decisions by me but more due to the quality shown by the team.

We eventually made the Semi-Final having not lost a game and we were due to play Veszprem, regarded as the favourites for the tournament. Markus was there to help me manage the team again, the boys played extremely well and deserved the win however just an hour and a half later we had to play the final against Konstanz who had given us a close run in the first game and who had been slowly improving throughout the tournament. We eventually lost the game and afterwards I spoke to the players and they said for them their final was against Veszprem, but of course their heads were down. It wasn’t nice to see the guys like this and I felt powerless during the game. My knowledge of the game isn’t so vast and I didn’t have any ideas of how to break down the Konstanz defence. Despite this and my lack of experience the lads said they were happy with the way I had been throughout the week and said I had done a good job, which was nice to hear.

When I returned to Bregenz, it was going to be a fairly easy going week as the first team had not performed so well in the tournament in Germany and the start of the season was looming so our coach decided that we needed some rest time and reduced the number of sessions for the week.

The first game of the season took place on Saturday 29th August but I did not take part as my transfer from Denmark has not been completed yet. I decided to travel with the squad, an 8 hour trip to Tolln. The U21 team played 1st and put in a convincing performance to win by 8 goals. The same however could not be said for the first team, having been down by three at half time they managed to scrape a draw. It wasn’t the start they wanted especially when next week they travel to Norway for the Champions League Qualification against Fyllingen and Partisan Belgrade.

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Will Sharman: Harder To Please

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I’ve not long got back to my hotel room after running at the prestigious Zurich Golden League meeting, which prides itself on replicating the World Championship final. I finished 6th out of 9 in a competitive field and my time was 13.37. (0.2)

I thought that I should have run faster had I not made a mistake half-way down the track, but to run 13.3 and call it a bad race, shows that I am in new territory and consistently faster than I was, compared to the first half of the season. Always focussing on the positives is very important. The stadium was a sell-out, the track felt magical underneath my toes and the crowd were very vocal, all of which makes for a vibrant atmosphere.

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David Wigley: Passing The Time

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I often get asked how I fill my time when we are batting or when it’s raining and cricketers have nothing to do!

I have several methods of procrastination and they often get ticked off in a certain order.

Firstly, I always attempt The Times crossword. Before I impress you too much I must highlight the word ‘attempt’ and also acknowledge the fact that it is in fact the quick crossword in the T2 supplement of The Times. However, I think it’s still pretty impressive. I always enjoy being a 27-year-old male sportsman and watching the Shop Assistant lose his mortgage on the fact I was odds-on to pick up The Sun or The Star.

The variation in difficulty of the T2 crossword never ceases to amaze me. My usual method of approach is to put in all the easy answers, pass it to Rob White and then continue to do it ‘together’ (the crossword). If I get slightly frustrated with it then I then look for one of the 10 copies of The Sun or Star that the other lads have inevitably bought and try my hand at their “Two-Way Teasers”. (Other crosswords!)

If I have a good run with the crosswords then I continue on to the Sudoku and massage my ego by congratulating myself on my obvious intelligence.

If I get totally disillusioned with the puzzles then I put it down to one of my rare unintelligent days and move on to my next time-killer.

It is worth mentioning that if we have time on our hands, we will, as bowlers, head over to the indoor school and have a bat on the bowling machine. I personally feel like Don Bradman on the bowling machine, but when I find myself facing bowlers in a match situation, I probably bat more like Don King.

Whilst I’ve made the effort to walk all the way over to the indoor school at the other side of the ground, I would probably pop next door and do a gym session of some description too. During the season, it is all maintenance work so we don’t get stiff and sore leading into the next days play.

After a hugely productive morning, the only thing on my mind whilst I head back over to the changing rooms and see Rob still trying to complete the T2 crossword, is a huge and probably slightly early lunch.

If it is a batting day then, this season particularly, after lunch probably means putting some whites on preparing to bat at number 10 or 11!

Rain after lunch means dire boredom is likely to set in if I don’t do one of two things. The only problem is that both things require me to have brought something to the ground that morning, and one of them depends on other people also being keen.

Poker requires me to have a fiver on me and also needs me to generate the interest of members from my own team and, indeed, from the opposition. The great thing about poker is that once there are 4 or 5 interested players it can last a good couple of hours. The downside is that I’ve often lost all my chips after 20 minutes. However, once all the chips have been counted and money added to the pot at the start, it’s still a good time-killer.

The other post-lunch option would be to continue reading the book I am currently engrossed in at home. If I remembered to bring it. The biggest problem here is to find a quiet enough corner or room where none of your ‘mates’ can come over and stick their finger in your ear or throw grapes and the odd cashew nut at you. When boredom reaches these levels, it’s not only yourself you need to worry about…

At this stage of proceedings, if it’s still raining you really hope that the umpires fancy an early finish or use their common sense (the former often the more likely with umpires) and call play off for the day. With any luck, I will get home in time for Deal or No Deal and Friends double bill. I never get bored of them. If it’s really early, Only Fools and Horses is usually on at 3pm.

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Lawrie Dudfield: It’s the right decision at the right time

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After leaving Corby Town on the eve of the season, which I can’t really say too much about for legal reasons, I found myself staring at the prospect of life after football. To be honest though, it wasn’t a difficult to decision to make, as soon as things went the way the did I knew straight away it was the right time to retire and look at something else.

I’ve played the last 12 seasons as a professional footballer, I have been very fortunate to do something millions of people have only been able to dream about. I’ve played in the Premier League, I’ve played abroad – I’ve experienced football at all levels and I have memories that no-one can ever take away from me but in reflection, I’ve probably known for the last couple of seasons I wasn’t enjoying football as much as I knew I should have been.

I realised my future was going to be away from playing football sooner rather than later. I could have played on for maybe another five seasons but perhaps not at a level that would really tested me and therefore where would the challenge and the enjoyment be in that? I have had offers to play professionally again and return to at least the Conference level but I have a young family and my future security was important; to carry on playing wasn’t a route I was prepared to take.

Just over a year ago now I started to look at getting into coaching, I’ve been working towards my badges over that time and that is the path I have decided to take; it’s the one that offers me the most satisfaction. With a bit more time on my hands now that I’m not training or playing it also gives me the opportunity to look at the sorts of business ventures I’ve never been able to seriously entertain.

When I’m not coaching I’m very busy at the moment setting up a new venture with a friend, it’s something we’ve been looking to do for a few years now but neither of us have been able to commit to it. It will be a challenge, I’m not expecting it to be easy but I want to get my teeth in to. I’d like to think anyone I’ve ever played with over the last decade will have appreciated by team work and dedication and know it is time for me to apply those skills to my new career. I’ll keep you posted with how I’m getting on.

Bobby White : The Hard Work Has Started

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August was a very tough period for me both with Bregenz and with Great Britain, travelling for camps and tournaments in Germany, France and Hungary.

Making an appearance for A1 Bregenz in a pre-season tournament in Germany was a real taste of top flight Handball, although there were bigger matches to come the week after, in France with GB. I had a fairly good 20 minute spell but noticed the increased ability in the 2nd Division of the German Bundesliga side, the players were faster and the shots were harder than I had become accustom to in my time in Denmark. I was disappointed not to get more game time in the 4 matches but sometimes I just have to remind myself where I have come from and not let sitting on the bench or not being selected for the squad get me down!

Sunday 8th of August saw the GB team join up in the south of France. After a 13 hour train journey from Bregenz, I joined up with the rest of the boys at the hall where training had already started. The lads looked hot, tired and as if most of them would rather be somewhere else! For a lot of the lads, this was the first time they had touched a handball since our trips to Serbia and Greece back in June. For many, uncertainty also surrounds their club situation for the 2009/10 season and being this late into August it is not a good situation to be in.

The mood in the camp was not the best and it was picked up immediately by Dragan and Assistant Coach Bill Baillie who told me I would have to do my best as stand in Captain to reignite the motivation and desire of the squad.

It was going to be a tough week!

On the Tuesday, we were due to travel to Frantignan a small town near Montpellier to play Japan and Montpellier in a friendly tournament. Dragan was sure we could match the Japanese but Montpellier would be a different matter all together with none other than Nikola Karabatic being added to their ranks in the summer.

Having lost against Montpellier, we played Japan 20 minutes later and a poor first half, filled with numerous technical mistakes, meant we would have a mountain to climb to salvage any positives from the game. We came out for the second half and put in a better performance but the damage had already been done with the Japanese counter attacks in the first half.

Later in the week, we also played against Algeria and Istres, losing both games but we had shown we had the ability to compete with the likes of these teams having matched them for periods during the game but our higher number of technical mistakes was the difference and we were punished with counter attacks once again.

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Wayne Allison: I’m Still Alive And Still Looking For Work

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It’s been a while since my last update and since then I have completed and passed the UEFA Pro Licence and have been applying for jobs as and when they’ve come up but with no success!!

I have also spent most of the last few months at University as I get close to finishing my PhD. While being out of work has been very frustrating it has helped me crack on with my studies so when I do get a job I haven’t got too much work left to do.

I was also fortunate and lucky to get an interview at Blackburn Rovers for the post of First Team Coach, unfortunately I didn’t get the job but I was pleased with how the interview went and the experience gained, which will hopefully stand me in good stead for future interviews.

It was also good for me to get my name out there to remind people that I’m still here, still alive and still very serious about wanting to become a coach.

I am proud of completing the Pro Licence, there are still quite a lot of Manager’s who haven’t done it but I found it to be very worthwhile.

You learn a lot and you also learn about the situations other Coaches / Managers have found themselves in, their past experiences and how they have dealt with certain things. You would never know how to deal with some of the things until it is presented to you but if you can use other people’s experiences and try to learn that way then that will hopefully help me.

It also served as a great networking tool because as well as your group the courses over lap so the first year you spend time with those already in their second year and this year we had a few days with the new intake so a lot of time was spent in the bar making contacts, which may one day come in very handy.

Now that the new season has started you’re looking for opportunities, with people losing their jobs that is the nature of the beast. The only way you will get a job is if someone leaves one – out of choice or not! But hopefully it’s not anyone I know.

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David Wigley: Still On For Promotion But It’s Tighter Than Ever

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A Bank Holiday weekend! We have a televised Pro40 match televised on Monday against Warwickshire that I’m not playing in. I might go and watch a bit, or if its cold, I might just flick between it and what is bound to be a ‘Bankers Bank Holiday Bonanza’ edition of Deal or No Deal in the comfort of my own home. They will probably lose the £250,000 in the first round, end up with the 1p and I will turn over to Extreme Make-over: Home Edition after 10 minutes.

Pretty much a whole days rain over the last four days put pay to a result against promotion rivals Glamorgan at the County Ground, Northampton, last week. We lost the toss on a wicket that was doing a lot for the seamers on the first day but an excellent 160 from ex-housemate Steven Peters and some poor bowling from the Glammy boys meant that we made 350, probably 100 runs more than they would have liked. The wicket then turned out to be a very good batting deck as wickets became pretty hard to come by. The game petered out to the inevitable draw and we were able to finish an hour early. In games like this one, teams should be able to shake hands at the tea interval. Both sets of players and the umpires knew where it was heading and the front-line bowlers had stopped bowling shortly after lunch in order to preserve their bodies for the last four matches.

Our draw, along with the draw that Essex had with Leicestershire had, meant that no team has made any progress away from each other in order to get the second promotion place. Currently, Kent look odds-on favourites to be promoted in first place, but a loss by them could still see two other teams snatch the top two places if results go their way.

The Second Division of the County Championship is definitely where the excitement is!   Durham look to have all but mathematically won the £350,000 prize money for first place in the First Division which means that if Northants are still in contention come our final game then it could be televised for all four days on Sky Sports. A good opportunity for us to show off our Championship form to the rest of the country.

Competition for places in the bowling department is very strong at the moment. I was rotated in the previous game and Johan Van Der Wath missed the Glamorgan game with illness. Jack Brooks, the newest member of the attack, had another good game this week.  He bowled economically without much luck but still picked up two wickets in the game.

Dave Lucas is still our leading wicket-taker, by some distance. So, with Van Der Wath presumably returning for our next fixture against Middlesex at home I guess I might have another unsettled build up wondering if I will get the nod or the dreaded tap on the shoulder with the phrase ‘you’re going to miss out this game I’m afraid, Wiggers’. Time will tell.

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