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Newly-appointed Diss Rugby Club head coach Alex Kelsall hopes to repay Mackenders outfit with ‘determined’ squad

Despite revealing that signing players is top of his to-do list, new Diss Rugby Club head coach Alex Kelsall said he has been impressed by the ‘determined’ nature of the existing squad as he looks to repay the club that ‘gave him so much’.

The 33-year-old was appointed as Clive Bell’s successor last week following the club’s decision not to renew their former head coach’s contract.

The Mackenders outfit finished eighth in the Counties 1 Eastern Counties last term and Kelsall, who also heads into his fourth season as head coach of the Eastern Counties Under-17s, is excited by the early conversations he has had with his squad.

Alex Kelsall is an ex-Wymondham back-specialist coach. Picture: Mark Bullimore
Alex Kelsall is an ex-Wymondham back-specialist coach. Picture: Mark Bullimore

“The boys are really determined to have a really good shot at this season,” said Kelsall, who is also a PE teacher at Alde Valley Academy.

“The players are incredibly welcoming, they’ve got an excellent ethos. I’ve spoken to quite a number of those players and they’re just excited to get boots on the ground and really drive the progress through the club.

“I’ve not heard any information regarding players leaving. In fact, it seems to be galvanising the squad and people are saying ‘yep, this is worth sticking out for’.

Alex Kelsall made his debut for Diss’ first team aged 17 Picture: Mark Bullimore
Alex Kelsall made his debut for Diss’ first team aged 17 Picture: Mark Bullimore

“We’ve got players that have played 20-plus seasons for the first team that are sticking around and we’ve got youth players that are coming up and showing massive enthusiasm for joining the seniors.”

Kelsall has not only been impressed with his senior side, as he labelled the club’s youth section as the ‘jewel in Diss’ crown’.

The RFU Advanced Level 3-qualified coach wants to bring colts players through to the first team, as well as new signings, to strengthen his outfit where necessary.

“It’s always a really positive thing to get new blood into the club, whether that comes from signings from external (clubs), which we’re talking to players about, whether that’s the colts coming up through and testing their skills in the senior set-up, or bringing players back,” he said.

Alex Kelsall alongside new Diss chairman Stephen Drake. Picture: Mark Bullimore
Alex Kelsall alongside new Diss chairman Stephen Drake. Picture: Mark Bullimore

“It’s definitely number one on the to-do list – to get more players on the paddock, get them training and develop the whole ethos, and making sure the club pushes forward and goes from strength to strength.”

The former Cambridge player is no stranger to Diss. He joined the club when he was 13 years old and made his debut for the first team at 17, before moving to university where he won the National Colts Cup with Bedford Blues Academy.

“For me, it’s an excellent opportunity,” said the former Wymondham back-specialist coach.

Alex Kelsall is a former Bedford Blues Academy player. Picture: Mark Bullimore
Alex Kelsall is a former Bedford Blues Academy player. Picture: Mark Bullimore

“It’s a really fulfilling feeling to come back to the club that gave so much to me, and it’s now my opportunity to give back, and show that Diss is a really excellent place to be and has some decent rugby coming out of it.

“Diss has given me so much and built my ethos, my drive, my determination, my motivation for rugby. I’m really looking forward to it.

“There’s an absolute wealth of talent at Diss and for me it’s about developing each one of those players over the course of the season to be better themselves and in due course better the team’s outcomes.”

Diss will get their new campaign under way at Ely on September 7 before Kelsall’s first competitive home game arrives, against Saffron Walden on September 14.

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