The dust may barely have settled on the Heriot’s BT Premiership title triumph completed on Saturday, but already thoughts are turning to next season.
The Goldenacre club secured the league trophy for the first time since 2000 when they saw off Melrose 22-20 in a match that was decided with the final play of the game. That outcome was widely regarded as the most apt given the ten-point advantage Heriot’s held at the end of the regular season.
The trophy topped and tailed a successful campaign that had started with the Capital side beating Melrose – the league champions last year – in the pre-season charity shield showdown between the league and cup holders.
Two pieces of silverware represented a tidy haul for Heriot’s. But there will be no resting on laurels, with coach Phil Smith already eyeing a possible treble next season. Referring to his team’s exit against Hawick at the semi-final stage in defence of the BT Cup, he said: “The gut wrenching thing is that we didn’t get to the cup final. It still riles me. We won the charity shield and we’ve won the league, so I think we should try and push for them all. Every club will say that but I think we are in a pretty good position to do that.”
He revealed that he had become convinced of his men’s title credentials after seeing them compete against Melrose, Ayr and Gala on successive weekends in the first half of the campaign. And he is confident that the components are in place to move to an even higher level when the new season kicks off in August. The league programme will be played without a break, ending in January when a knockout competition takes over and fills the gap until April when the BT Premiership grand final will again take place.
Although Smith does not expect to lose any of his current squad, he is looking to add strength in depth. And Heriot’s president Donald Gray revealed that there has already been some progress in that regard, while more signings are anticipated. “It’s all looking pretty good for next season. We have done a bit of pre-season work and we have a few guys lined up. And on the back of this win hopefully we will be able to recruit a few more people,” he said.
It was not only the Goldenacre club’s top side that enjoyed a positive campaign. And that, Gray believes, has enhanced the prevailing mood.
“Overall, the season has been massively successful. The thirds got promoted, the seconds were second in their league, we have topped the league and won the play-off, so all in all it’s superb.”
While the Premiership title was secured with a try in the final play of a match that produced 85 engrossing minutes, Gray pointed out that Saturday’s dramatic events were merely the culmination of a lengthy process.
“It has been three years in the making with Phil, Stevie (Lawrie) and Jamie Parker. It has taken a lot of hard work, a lot of effort – the players have put in a humongous amount of work and it has come to fruition this season.”
The grand final win came at the end of massive week that had also featured a match against the Barbarians to celebrate the club’s 125th anniversary. Gray is confident that, in addition to delivering a financial boost, the two games have created a buzz that will encourage others to play a part at Goldenacre.
“The game against the Barbarians was phenomenal and, in an ideal world, that would have been the final game of the season. With one or two bits and pieces, we had to roll on but the focus was always on Saturday. Hopefully that will now make it easier to get a few people involved at the club.”