2023 End of Season Review with HC Leigh Jones

We spoke with Head Coach, Leigh Jones to discuss the 2023 season, progress on the pitch and how we are looking ahead to 2024.

First of all congratulations on a record breaking season and also for the promotion to head coach. But going back to the start, what were your expectations for the season just gone?

LJ: Thanks! Considering it was only our 2nd proper season in the national leagues (we don’t really count the disrupted 2021 “COVID” season), we went in with very high expectations indeed. In 2022, we had only 2 losses – both to a quality Northants team that went on to be promoted. The 2nd of those 2 losses was very close, so we felt confident that we could compete for a playoff place at minimum.

WR #3 JJ Spencer with an athletic catch to pull down a pass at home to Cornwall Monarchs

It was a mixed season in terms of opponents with some familiar, some new and some distances travelled. How did you find the away game travel?

LJ: Away fixtures in this league always represent a challenge, but 8-9 hour round trips to Cornwall and Kent are even bigger challenges. Our players and support staff deserve a lot of credit for not shying away from the long journeys and making sure those games were actually very well attended. It’s difficult to get your brain and body engaged in such a physical sport after a really early start and a 4-5 hour bus ride, but the players gave it their all both times.

When the opportunity arose mid season to step up as HC, what were your initial thoughts?

LJ: I’ve never hidden that I wanted to be a head coach one day, so I was very proud to be asked to do it in my home town for a club I’ve been involved with for as long as I have. At the time, though, the thought process was not a lot more than “we’ve started the season well, we need to keep this going”.

It was obviously a long season, with many accomplishments, but what was the most memorable or defining moment of the year for you?

LJ: For me, there are two from this season that I will remember for a very long time: James Sirrell’s interception in the dying seconds of a close home game vs Ouse Valley to secure the win was absolutely wild. The other was Blaine Smith’s 65 yard TD run on the 1st play in our 1st ever playoff game, that was an incredible moment.

Looking ahead to the upcoming off season, what will be your main areas of focus?

LJ: It’s a bit of a cliché answer, but; building on the success of last season. We’re an ambitious group, but it’s my job to make sure everyone is paying attention to the process. It starts by practising with a purpose, being prepared mentally and physically for the regular season.

RB #45 Blaine Smith breaks free on the opening play for a touchdown in our first ever playoff game vs Swindon Storm.

For anyone interested in joining the Stampede or wanting to see what the club is about, what would your advice be?

LJ: Whether you want to test yourself physically with a new sport or you’re a fan keen to try it out (or both) or a current player looking for a team in the area, you won’t be disappointed. You’ll find a group of players with a lot of passion for Football, tonnes of ambition and terrific sense of camaraderie.

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