Above: O'Grady launches an attack for the Esher Golden Lions, at the Bournemouth Sevens. The scrum-half will add experience, and a winning mentality, to the senior 15-a-side squad as he returns for a fifth season at Molesey Road. (Image: Ellen Baldwin)
On the night (Tues, 17/06) pre-season training commenced for the senior squad at Molesey Road, a further five players – including the Golden Lions captain, Patrick O’Grady – signed up for next year.
The vastly experienced O’Grady is the most senior of the latest group to re-sign, with the other four all up-and-coming young players – second-row George Drye, centre Jack Cooke (pictured, right), flanker Charlie Gossington and winger Rhys Howells.
They join the 12 men already in place, including captain Ian Kench and ex-Bath and Harlequins man Tom Cheeseman, with CEO Mike Schmid set to unveil a number of new faces in the next few days.
O’Grady joined the Club in 2010, having come through the system at Hartpury College – who won promotion to National One by winning National Two South in April – with George Drye arriving in 2012. Jack Cooke and Charlie Gossington are two of the success stories from the Club’s academy, with Rhys Howells – capped by Wales Students - coming to Hersham last summer after graduating from Cardiff University.
1st XV coach Chris Kibble has worked with all five men in both versions of the game.
“Patrick is a very intelligent rugby player. He’s a competitive man who wants to win, and I think playing a full summer of sevens will help him hit the ground running in September, fitness wise.
“George has a fantastic attitude. He wants to learn and develop all the time, and he’s the sort of player that coaches want to have in their group. A thorough pre-season will help him physically and as he becomes more comfortable with the level, he could really excite.
“Jack has all the qualities to push for a regular starting spot. He’s shown plenty of quality every time he has got a chance, and the big thing for him now is consistency of performance. He’s only just turned 22 so still has much to learn, but we believe he is someone who has a really bright future in the game.
“The sevens programme has also really helped Charlie (pictured, left) – he’s got a very good turn of pace and a great engine and though he’s still got much developing to do, and faces a lot of competition for a spot in the back-row, will learn so much just being around the senior players.
“Rhys stepped up and didn’t let anybody down when he was put in at the deep end last season, and that game time did his confidence the world of good. He’s quick, sharp and always looking to play on the front foot and of all the young players in this division, he might just be the one to watch over the next 12 months.”