Havant primed to take '˜fantastic opportunity'
Will Knight has high hopes for Havant as they raise the curtain on their London one south campaign against Sidcup at Hooks Lane (3pm).
The senior coach believes his squad are capable of pushing for a return to the National League.
It is a tough start against the Kent visitors who have been at the top end of the division in the last few years.
The visitors also did the double over Havant last season – including a last-minute 22-21 win at Hooks lane.
‘I see it as a fantastic opportunity for us to lay down a marker,’ said Knight.
‘We are looking to get off to a flying start on the back of our best pre-season for many years.
‘The players have worked incredibly hard.
‘As a club we should be pushing for a return to National League rugby and I believe it is a realistic proposition.
‘The club is looking to move up and we want to be the club players in the area aspire to join.
‘We know what we did last season won’t be good enough but the players are on board and ready to make the next step up.’
Havant have a raft of new recruits and some promising youngsters who have graduated from their academy.
Hooker Elliott Bellman, 18, has impressed and will be given his debut in the first game. He joins his brother – number eight Nathan Bellman.
Second row forward Mitch Goldring is also set for his debut after joining from Locks Heath Pumas.
He has forced his way into the reckoning with some powerful pre-season performances.
Waiting in the wings are prop Tom Blackburn, who has returned to the club from Gosport & Fareham, navy winger Ben Chambers and outside-half Wayne John, who has arrived from United Services.
Chambers is ruled out of the opener by injury, though.
Havant will also have to do without experienced pair Gav Hart and Joe Davis, who are unavailable, in the pack.
The Hooks Lane outfit have retained the bulk of last season’s squad – with Joel Knight continuing as captain.
He is supported by the appointment of Ben Brierley as club captain.
‘The last few seasons have been a big learning curve,’ added head coach Will Knight.
‘I have seen the squad mature and take more individual responsibility on the pitch. There is a lot of player input into what we are trying to achieve here.
‘Last season we created a lot of opportunities in attack.
‘The challenge this season is to put games away when we get into a good position.
‘That is what teams at the top are able to do.
Havant: Pat Gains, Scott Morris, Ben Brierley, Joel Knight, Loz Blackburn, Dave Sweeney, Jake Reynolds; Luke Marks, Elliott Bellman, Armungus Morgan, Harrison Young, Mitch Goldring, Graham Butterworth, Steve Cruddas, Nathan Bellman.
Replacements: Jerome Trail, Richard Janes, Jake Hewett