Rob Smith admits the pressure will be on him this season as the new club captain at Worthing Raiders.
Smith, 28, knows all about pressure. He was the hero of Stourbridge when he bulldozed over the line to secure Raiders’ promotion to National One in a dramatic added time play-off win two seasons ago.
Last season he stepped into the breach late in the season after Matt Miles was injured as Worthing fought an unsuccessful battle to stay in the third tier.
His leadership then, coupled with Miles’ absence for at least the opening couple of months, has resulted in him getting the job full-time. He is relishing it, even if there will be a weight of expectation on his shoulders as Raiders start as one of the favourites to bounce straight back up.
Back row Smith said: “When Matt got injured at the end of last season, I was asked to step up and try and steer us to safety.
“That became too much of a task to get through but they were really happy with the job I did and at the end of the season they asked me to stay on and be captain.
“I am honoured. I have been at the club 11 years and have always been the young whippersnapper looking up at the senior players and now I find myself as a senior player and steering the ship. It is a bit of a surreal feeling but I am very happy.”
He admitted: “I suppose it does put more pressure on me. It feels as if it is all on my head now as everyone wants promotion this year and I have to steer the boys up there.
“Hopefully we can guide each other through and get promoted. There is a lot of talk from outside of the camp with people saying we should do it easily this year but there are a lot of teams who have recruited heavily and it is going to be a very tough season.
“Hopefully, we can rise to the challenge.”
Smith expects plenty of stiff opposition for promotion.
He said: “Henley always do well, Chinnor and Dings have recruited quite heavily so all the usual candidates and a few others.
“It seems that everyone wants to have a dig this year and as we have come back down from National One then we are a scalp. Everyone will wants to have a pop at the little southern club even more than normal, although we usually find ourselves as the underdogs or not liked.
“With the expectation on us comes that added pressure and we have to make sure that we are at the standard to deliver results and get across the whitewash enough to win each game.”
Smith hopes lessons learned last season will stand them in good stead.
He admits the side were naive early on and it took six or seven games to adapt.
There were also other failings which he hopes have been addressed.
Smith said: “We were weak in the front row but we have recruited and that won’t be an issue this year. Ryan Storer has come back from Ealing, which is a massive bonus and he will hopefully steer the ship from the front row.
“We lacked a little direction at times in the backs too but other than that people said we were a good team.
“Until you play at that level for a time you don’t realise that you have more time than you think.
“You feel that you have no time to think and organise because it is happening that much quicker but as soon as you get used to it, you get that time back again because you have adjusted.
“I hope the boys have adjusted and remember where they were at so we can pick up from how we ended last season. We need to hit the ground running and shock everyone with the standard of rugby we are playing for the right reasons.
“We are going to need to play at that standard if we are to get promoted. National Two is a not a level to be sneezed at, it is a good level of rugby.”
Raiders begin their campaign on September 6 against visitors Old Elthamians.