Thursday, 31 October 2013

Sale Sharks open night

Last Wednesday, I took part in a fan open night event organized by Sale Sharks. The club invited its loyal fans and gave them a unique opportunity to chat with Sale Sharks players, coaches and members of staff as well as to be shown around stadium facilities. 

The event was held at the AJ Bell Stadium. Guests were welcomed with hot snacks and drinks. You could have a tour around changing rooms, do some shopping and have your items signed by players. New stadium facilities are truly impressive. Home and away changing rooms are both good size. Home team can also use an extra room for stretching and warm-up. 

The fans could also take a look around the press room and walk down the corridor leading to the pitch. The team members talked them through the usual Aviva Premiership match day preparations.

At the conference room the players were chatting to the fans, signing calendars and posing for the pictures. Danny Cipriani was the most popular but other players were also quite busy. It was very interesting to chat with Hugh Jenner who is responsible for computer analysis and reports on players’ performance. At the highest level the margin between losing and winning is very narrow and details can be crucial. High tech plays here a massive role. Each player GPS data are constantly analysed which helps the coach to make decisions on the spot.

The last part of the event was Q & A session. Below, I have summarized the discussion with Danny Cipriani, Steve Dimond and Dan Braid. 

What do you think about the start of the season?
Steve Diamond: We started well, we’re reasonably pleased with where we are at the moment (3 wins in Aviva Premiership, 2 wins in Amlin Challenge Cup). After disappointing last season, we chatted together and tried to think about things we could do better. Competition in Aviva Premiership is very tough and we don’t want to add any pressure out of the field. What we want from the players is them to turn up on the training, do what they are asked for and deliver on a match day. Everybody respects each other.

Does the AJ Bell Stadium feel more like home now?
Steve Diamond: We think it is our home. We moved to three different venues over past 10 years and hopefully this will be our last place. It feels like home, the noise is great. Roads system will be improved in the next 12 months. We want to be highly competitive and this will get more people to attend to our games. 

How important is team’s identity?
Steve Diamond: A lot of players in our squad are from the North-West, we live in a huge region similar to Exeter. We need to get into the communities and get the people to come to the games; we want them to feel that Sale Sharks is their club. We play fair, we do stick to salary cap. We could be a real force but the rugby needs to do the talking. We are still Sale Sharks, just a small town in Cheshire. Manchester is a football city, it’s divided between red and blue. We are a small enclave, we give people a chance to see something different. Tradition is very important to us.  

When you came to the club you had to think what a mess. 
Dan Braid: I turned up at a club and straight away noticed there’s a good batch of players and good trainers.

What are the differences between playing in New Zealand and England?
Dan Braid: Playing in England is very much different to New Zealand where rugby is number one and coming to the games is something natural. In England, people have a choice of different sports. Those who come to the games are really enjoying it. 8-9k fans in Manchester can make more noise than 25k in New Zealand. 

You are an experienced player. Do you feel responsible for helping younger players in the squad?
Dan Braid: Yes, we all know how important it is to get their confidence levels up. 

Danny, you’ve been here 2 years now. How are you finding the club?
Danny Cipriani: I am a London boy but I’m close to the lads in the club. I am still catching up with the lingo. I always try to be the part of the team. Since the night out in Leeds, I changed my attitude to training, changed my lifestyle, diet and it is more beneficial. I stopped drinking. I’ve been working on my fitness. We are going to be a team which is very tough to get points against. We really want to win. 

When is the new numer 8 coming?
Steve Diamond: I can’t give you the information about who it is but he’s going to join the team after autumn internationals.

What is your main focus?
Steve Diamond: Bread and butter is Aviva Premiership closely followed by Amlin Challenge Cup. We want to be in the top 6. The league is most important. LV cup is the third. 

What tips would you give to young players?
Steve Diamond: Respect comes with playing the game. It’s just about repetition. You probably need 10k hours of practice to be pro. The most important is practice, coming focused on training, and enjoying it. 

Danny Cipriani: Watch a lot of rugby and try to understand what they are doing and why they are doing it.