Coventry Bears Rugby League
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Oldham preview interviews

Bears Alan Robinson and Tom Tsang

Bears Alan Robinson and Tom Tsang

Oldham preview interviews

Coventry Bears Managing Director Alan Robinson and Head Coach Tom Tsang were recently interviewed by the Oldham club on the first challenge that lies ahead and there aspirations for the season.

The Bears take on Oldham this Sunday March 1st at Whitebank stadium and also the following week on Sunday March 8th in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.

Interview with Coventry Bears Managing Director Alan Robinson

How big a challenge has it been to prepare for your big adventure into the semi-professional arm of the sport ?

The challenge has been a big one but I feel we have taken it in our stride, we have been running the club as a successful business with a strong fan base for a number of years now and the RFL has had faith in us through what we have proven not just on the field but off it.

Is the city ready for rugby league at third-tier level ?

Of course, the city has a massive tradition in rugby union and rugby league which was played in Coventry over 100 years ago as a Northern Union side. We are a little different to some of the other new sides in that Coventry has had a good standard of rugby league being played there for a number of years now and we want to retain our fans and build towards a good future at this level.

What are your aspirations for the club - short term and long term ?

Short term we want to be competitive and prove ourselves at this level we are under no illusions to the challenges that lie ahead of us but I have faith in our coaches, players and the environment we have built here in the city.

Long term we have plans already in motion to be able to sustain the long term development of rugby league in Coventry. We have set up a community interest company (Bears in the community) which will assist us in achieving funding for a city wide schools programme and a number of other community based projects. These projects will also form the basis of our marketing strategy and allow us to promote the sport. We have a tremendous facility in the Butts Park Arena which is situated in the city centre which lends itself perfectly to this also. It is all part of a long term plan which I feel will allow us to grow year on year.

How important was it to form a link with Bradford Bulls, and how do you see the benefits for the Bears?

It has been important for us on a number of levels, the Bulls have a great brand which I hope we can emulate from a business perspective while on the field we can benefit from areas in which we feel we need some extra support. The Bulls also see the benefits of working with us and that there could be some great long term gains for both clubs.

 Do you also have links, and to what extent, with Coventry RU Club ?

Yes we have a close partnership with Coventry Rugby club, they have a great fan base and are a historic club in their own right, we have been working on a number of areas together and they are fully behind us in our step up to this level.

 What are your first-season goals for the club?

I spent time with the squad away in our preseason camp and the coaches and players have set themselves some goals which if we stay injury free and build upon each week I have no doubt we can achieve. Our home ground is somewhere we take pride in getting results and we have surprised some of the more established clubs in the NCL in recent years as an amateur club.

How do you and your colleagues feel about playing each of your first two competitive games at this level at Oldham?

Playing Oldham first up will be a big challenge for us and now having two games back to back makes it even more interesting. We will have two opportunities to get a result so im sure it will be both a physical and tactical battle over the two weeks. We are all massively excited and the players cannot wait to play in what will be a historic two weeks in the clubs history.

You delayed your step-up in status for a year. Have you achieved in the past 12 months what you hoped to achieve in terms of launching the club's new era from a strong platform ?

Yes we delayed for good reasons but also it didn’t make sense coming into a competition before the new era of the sport began. From our point of view we have been able to maximise things as the only new club this year and I am hoping we can gain momentum both on and off the field as the new era kicks in!


Interview with Tom Tsang Coventry Bears Head Coach

As head coach of the League One new boys, how important is it to you and to the club to get off to a good start and to send out a message to the rest of the league and to the sport generally? 

Very important. Like all teams, we want to start the season in good form and build some momentum early in the season. However, we dont focus on what the rest of league or the sport generally thinks of us as a club because as we are confident that the processes, culture and environment we have built here in Coventry are the right ones so regardless of what happens we will stay strong as a unit and build through the season. Its fair to say though, that we will judge our performance over the course of the season, not just one or two games at the start.

Where will you need to finish in season one to achieve your targets?

Internally we have some pretty lofty ambitions, not just for this season but medium to long term as well. We are determined to prove we deserve to be in this league on merit and I am certain that we will prove this to be the case by the end of the year. Our primary target is to be the best of the 'new' clubs and then work from there. It may seem fanciful to anyone external to the club with it being our first season at this level, but we genuinely feel we can achieve a top half of the table finish.

Can you tell us something about the squad you have assembled, about your captain and about your leading players?

We have assembled a young, talented and enthusiastic squad where all members have fantastic attitudes and the players have all bought into our vision for the squad and the culture we have wanted to build. There is a mix of experience with a couple of the younger players having only been in the game for 1-2 years having come to us from other sports. I think there is a nice balance though because some of our senior players have Championship, Queensland Cup and even NRL experience. Our captain, Simon Phillips, is one of those players who has played NRL having played for North Queensland Cowboys, he also has over 200 games of experience playing in the Queensland Cup for Wynnum. James Geurtjens is another player with vast experience having also played in the Queensland Cup for Burleigh and Norths Devils, while Paul Ivan has over 150 games playing for Redcliffe.

What is your background Tom ? And how much responsibility lies on your shoulders for successfully leading the Bears into the club's exciting new era?

I am a born and bred Yorkshire-man, having grown up in Huddersfield and played in the Giants Scholarship and Academy set-up for 5 years before graduating at Leeds Metropolitan University. After graduating I worked for 7 years for the RFL as a development officer in the Education sector. I think there is a lot of responsibility on both mine and all those associated with the club in this exciting time. It’s imperative that we get it right both on and off the field to build support and help grow the game in a new market. If we dont do things the right way, it could be detrimental to the growth of RL in the Midlands so we all feel the responsibility of what we are doing here in Coventry.

What are your thoughts on Oldham --- and the fact that the Bears' history-making first two games at semi-pro level will be at Whitebank ?

Oldham are a great and historic club, with the town and the surrounding area having generated some of the greatest players of our game so we are honored to be able to make Oldham part of our history but also to be part of theirs. I am sure that with the new competition structure this season and Oldham missing out on promotion last year that they will be looking to rectify that in 2015 and will be looking to start the season strong in the two Cup competitions. I have a few friends who have played for Oldham in the past and a couple who are in this year’s team so it will be good to catch up with them too.

The Bears will be very much an unknown quantity to everyone at Oldham, including the fans. Who should well look out for individually; what can we expect from your team.

I think it’s fair to say that due to this being our first year, the resources I have had to work with and the culture we have wanted to build we have built a team of very talented but hardworking players. There are no standout stars as even the more experienced guys are grounded enough to be part of the whole team unit. We will pride ourselves on good team performances with players going the extra mile for each other on the field. 

Ahead of such a massive step-up in status for yourself, your team and your club will you sleep the night before the first big game at Oldham ?

Haha, thats a good question! I'm a pretty relaxed and chilled out personality so I am sure I will get a good night’s sleep, although I'm not sure the same could be said for one or two of the players or indeed the Club Directors!



Alan Robinson