Gavin Hogg has set his Bury St Edmunds RUFC side the target of creating more history by breaking into the National League Two South top six.
And with a large majority of last season’s squad retained, and joined by several experienced new recruits, Bury’s director of rugby hopes to finish even higher in 2016/17.
“I suppose the general ambition is to do better than last season’s finish and break into the top six of the table,” said Hogg, whose Bury side begin their new Two South campaign at home to Clifton tomorrow (3pm).
“There was a significant number of points which separated the top four or five and the next eight sides last season.
“We’re very realistic and we know we’ve got a tough start.
“We’ve got to go to Bishop’s Stortford and Taunton Titans, who are two sides who finished in the top six last season. So we’ve got a tough first month and after that we’ll assess the areas we need to improve on and also what’s realistic for the season.
“We’ve been very happy with how things have gone in pre-season. We certainly feel like we’re in a good place going into our first game on Saturday.”
Bury have boosted their squad over the summer with the additions of former Ospreys duo Emyr Williams and Cai Griffiths, the latter of whom joins as a player-coach.
Irish duo Ross Bailey and Michael Mellett, and Liam Griffiths, who has played for Taranaki in New Zealand’s Mitre 10 Cup, have also arrived at the Haberden.
Last season’s captain Josh Walker (Ampthill) and Matt Hema (Cambridge) are the two main departures for Bury, with hooker Dan Collins stepping up into the role of skipper and homegrown player Chris Snelling continuing as club captain.
“Dan played as a hooker for us last year and I think he played all 30 league games,” Hogg recalled. “He was one of the standout performers last season. He leads by example and sets a high standard.
“We’ve been helped massively by being able to retain the large majority of last season’s squad.
“We’ve been able to pick up from where we left off when we’ve started pre-season and now we’re hoping to get off to a good start this weekend.”
Bury claimed the highest finish of the three promoted sides in National League Two South last season, as they finished ahead of Three South West champions Redingensians Rams on points difference, while Barnes ended the 2015/16 campaign in 13th.
And while last season was all about consolidating in their new surroundings, Hogg now wants to make the most of the lessons learned from their maiden Two South campaign.
“The biggest learning experience we found last season was how small the margins were in this league,” he said.
“We lost three games last season by only one point and there was three or four other games where we just missed out on a bonus point.
“It’s a very long season and we want to go out and play a good brand of rugby and get results.
“We’ve done a lot of good work in pre-season, but we must not look too far ahead.”
Bury’s 71-point haul last season helped them finish in seventh place, just two points adrift of Chinnor in sixth spot.
Barnes in 13th finished seven points behind Chinnor, which highlights how competitive Two South was last season.
Bury’s only injury concern heading into tomorrow’s season opener is that of captain Collins, who was hoping to be passed fit last night.