Photo: John Scott
10by10 continues now with a look at the Raiders team. Returning defenceman Jack Cooper gives us his thought on the side this season.
It was a good year for us last year, we exceeded our goals and expectations. Our aim was to finish above the ‘old’ NIHL teams. Finishing 4th was a good confidence boost for us, especially finishing above one of the Ex-EPL teams. We proved that we could compete against that level of play. I think we developed massively as a team last year, Sean and Alan helped us improve a lot and the new signings last year made a difference. The only thing I could say we could improve on is starting games fast and strong, a few games last year we started the first period slow and ended up conceding a few goals and then we are back foot.
Making the move back to Romford during last season was definitely great for us, we finally had our own rink once again. We have been getting big crowds in as well which is always good to play in front of.
This year we aim to win some silverware and aim for a top position in the table which I think we are more than capable of achieving. We want to get to the Coventry weekend which would be amazing for our club and fans. It would be nice to give something back to the fans as they stayed loyal to us and made the trip to Lea Valley week in week out and still gave us a reason to play.
We have made some impressive signings which will help create a solid depth throughout our team this year. Aaron Connolly and Dan Scott were two massive signings, Aaron is a natural leader and is one of the best forwards in the league. Dan is a solid d-man who is confident on the puck with a good shot, these two will play a massive part in our team this year. Blaho Novak is another great signing, he’s quick and skilful and can score goals and will do very well this year. Mason Webster has played for us before and I have played alongside him at a previous team as well, he is a good played to have on your team. He will put his body on the line shift after shift and will always be the first person there to protect teammates.
Ben Clements is a good goalie addition, it gives P-head (Michael Gray) some competition in net which, in my opinion, makes goalies perform better as they all want that number 1 spot. We have a few youth players coming through as well like Tommy Huggett, Dan Hitchings and Brad Windebank. Tommy is a quick skilful player and is showing more and more confidence each week he trains with us, the same as Dan, he is already becoming a solid d-man and gets better and better each week. Brad, for his age, is an incredible goalie. He makes it look so effortless and if he carries on the way he is performing I believe he will become the best goalis in the league in years to come.
It is also good that we have our own NIHL2 team, this allows the younger players to gain experience at a senior level and I look forward to seeing how the youngsters perform over the year.
I think one of our main key players will be Huska. Each year he continues to show he is still one of the best imports in the league. He has one of the best shots I have witnessed and he is solid on the puck. Other players like Jake Sylvester, Ollie Baldock and JC play a big part in our team. Although Jakey and Ollie are still young, they continue to impress and they work well together. Jakey is a natural goal scorer and Ollie is a great centreman who works non-stop. JC brings a load of experience, he is very confident on the puck and can always find the right pass, him and Sean Barry work really well together.
Although we haven’t been together as a team long, I think we have all bonded really well. We seem more complete already, we all get along together and I think that is really important in a team. Being able to work hard and have fun with your team mates plays a massive part in any team sport, we all push each other even in training and it helps you work that little bit harder. There is good banter in the changing room which is always good to have within a team, it’s good to throw each other a little insult every now and then.
I am really looking forward to this coming season. I know it is going to be a tough season as all of the teams look solid so each game will be interesting. In this league, you cannot have an ‘off’ game because you will be punished. We will have to stay focused and continue to play the system that Sean and Alan want. I do generally believe with the team we have this year, we can push for a top spot and win a trophy.
Now we are being sponsored by Yates, we can also interact more with the fans after each home game as there isn’t a bar at the new rink. It’s always nice to have a beer with your teammates as well, especially after a win.
Raiders’ league season starts on Saturday with an away trip to Bracknell Bees on Saturday 15th September. They play their first home game the next day with a game against Streatham.