My final column of the season is, as ever the Midlands Select XV, this season sponsored by Kingsholm Kids — childcare for all your minis and juniors — and it is with great trepidation that I make the hardest cut.
It was only last month that one player, omitted from a previous team on account of his conditioning, spoke to me for the first time in two years following that omission. He is once again left out so I’ll no doubt speak to Mr X next in 2010.
The selection process has been muddied by the preponderance of loan players in National One particularly at Bees and Moseley, whose relationship with Gloucester meant Billesley Common required the installation of a revolving door at times.
Rather arbitrarily, therefore, I have decided to include dual-registered players but not those on loan otherwise the National League team would come almost entirely from Kingsholm and Sixways.
As a result Dan Norton and the Jacks Adams and Forster are picked having played in more than half Moseley’s fixtures this year while Dan Tuohy, Alasdair Dickinson and James Brown miss out.
That infusion of Premiership quality probably gives the sides a slightly reddish hue despite the fact Coventry finished highest-placed among our local National One teams.
Theirs has been a remarkable season, off the pitch if not on it, and their ninth-place finish does their small squad enormous credit.
Moseley’s has been the usual rollercoaster ride, though this time the descents have never made you fear for their safety.
Bees, on the other hand, have struggled because of negligently poor recruitment and the players that make this team do so because of the efforts they have put in paddling against the current.
One can only wonder if Stourbridge had gone up whether the perception of that success might have increased their representation. In truth I feel the First Division remains some way ahead of National Two in terms of playing standard.
That said, would the following players please step forward. . .
15 Reece Spee (Pertemps Bees)
Spee carried virtually all of his team’s attacking threat and although prone to horrendous blunders is also capable of unlocking defences. Defensively he is solid and, while his kicking is not the best, his spirit, courage and versatility personify his team’s end-of-season renaissance and get him in ahead of Stourbridge’s tyro Tom Jarvis.
14 Dan Norton (Moseley)
Very, very raw but an incredible attacking talent. Norton is fast and elusive and with nine tries in his first season of senior rugby is one for the future. Moseley will hope the next few years of that is in the Red and Black because the 18-year-old has lit up a somewhat prosaic threequarter line this season.
13 Ronnie McLean (Coventry)
An inconceivable selection a few months ago when injury meant he missed the first half of the campaign. But when his team needed a reliable kicker and someone to slot in anywhere along their backline McLean answered the call with a string of impressive performances though I’d have had to go for Gary Trueman had he played more than nine games for Moseley.
12 Jack Adams (Moseley)
Arguably, not that you’d get much disagreement from Billesley Common, the best centre in National One. He has already started what will surely be a successful Premiership career and is probably better suited to outside centre. Strong running, deceptively quick with good distribution, Adams has not so much been a revelation as more than confirmed his undoubted potential.
11 Nathan Bressington (Moseley)
Bressington makes this team most years and does so once again but not so much for his try-scoring this time. Seven scores from 27 matches represents a rather modest total for such a prolific finisher but his increased appetite for work and greater appreciation of support runners show he continues to improve.
10 Myles Dorrian (Coventry)
At his best, one of the top fly halves in the division, the Australian possesses a good range of passing, excellent decision-making and the physical tools to get through a gap. He is, however, a confidence player and at times his positional kicking and defence can be horrendous. Had Matt Jones stayed at Moseley a bit longer it would have been a different story.
9 Paul Knight (Pertemps Bees)
Like Spee, his appetite for the fight was a key factor in Bees’ rearguard action. After a poor season at Moseley, Knight returned to Sharmans Cross with a point to prove and prove it he did. Not as quick as he was at his peak three years ago he nonetheless remains an uncompromising opponent and the way he stepped into the place-kicking role did him enormous credit.
1 Nathan Williams (Moseley)
The Gloucester contingent apart, Williams was Moseley’s best summer signing and played in all but three of his team’s league matches. He is a good size for a prop and the sort of scrummager that made him popular among his team-mates. Had a brilliant partnership with Terry Sigley and his retention is an absolute must.
2 Chris Whitehead (Coventry)
But what about the yellow cards you may ask? Whitehead is one of those players who would be poorer without the devil that irks opponents and referees alike. The hooker is an outstanding ball-carrier and when used as an impact replacement can be devastating. If he could play for 80 minutes the way he does for the last 20 he’d be a Premiership player in no time.
3 Jack Forster (Moseley)
Rudi Brits is heralded as a very fine scrummager but Forster could be even better and has had a very important season in terms of his personal development. Not only has the England Saxon played 18 games for Moseley he has featured in nine for Gloucester and while he has much to learn he’s in the right place to do it and is proving he can.
4 Alex Davidson (Pertemps Bees)
Quite simply monumental. For me, Bees’ player of the season by a long way. Davidson has led from the front for nine months and will be a devastating force in National Two. Not only does he continue to win his lineout ball and disrupt the opposition, he has cut out his tendency to pick up yellow cards. A bizarre choice for my team captain but one I’d make nonetheless.
5 Ally Muldowney (Stourbridge)
When it looked like Stour were going to go up and people were talking about which of their players would survive at a higher level everyone agreed Muldowney could cope. A good size for a second row with an excellent workrate and decent hands, his game would only be improved by some Davidson-esque dog.
6 Neil Mason (Moseley)
Captain Fantastic for Moseley, his true value became apparent recently when they had to cope without him. For much of the season he was his team’s only genuine ball-carrying forward as well as doing so much dirty work, which brought him to the attention of referees. He deserved to be named Moseley supporters’ player of the year but should perhaps leave the goal kicking to someone else.
7 Andy Daish (Pertemps Bees)
Daish came from London Welsh in search of first-team rugby and got more than he could have imagined with Bees. He responded superbly, though, and with his energy and nose for the try-line he is one of the most improved players in the division. He too could be a real presence in National Two.
8 Laurie McGlone (Coventry)
When he arrived, as Murray Henderson’s coach’s pick, his performances were notable only for their anonymity. But as the season wore on McGlone grew into his role of vice-captain and ended up as his team’s best forward. His immensely powerful ball carrying is his best trait.