Harry Rowland is Rosslyn Park through and through, so he is best placed to reveal how last season’s disappointment at missing out on promotion to the Championship will affect this year’s campaign.
The 27-year-old has been associated with Park, save a period at London Irish and Molesey, since playing for the U12s in 1999, and he is entering his fifth consecutive season at Priory Lane.
Last time round, Park finished second behind full-time Doncaster Knights on the final day of the season, but the personal trainer and pilates teacher is confident Park will use the disappointment to their advantage.
He said: “We did everything we could so there was disappointment, but there was also a lot of pride.
“For a team of part-timers that meet twice a week to push a full-time side all the way was an excellent achievement.
“The defeat at home to Blackheath was the one that cost us the title, and we need to learn from that.
“I maintain that National One is the toughest league out there in terms of the quality of opponent, the travelling and the balancing of work and training.
“There is rarely a weekend that goes by without a top team losing to a supposed lesser team, and it is the team that can produce consistent performances that will win – and that is something we did not do last season.”
Early season favourites for the National League One title are Ealing Trailfinders, who were relegated from the Championship last season.
Trailfinders have bolstered their squad with some high profile names, including former Knights back row Michael Walker-Fitton, and second row Redford Pennycock from Bristol Rugby, as well as fly-half Luke Daniels from Esher.
Rowland said: “Ealing have had a taste of the Championship, and they have recruited well, so they will be among the favourites.
“Plus they know what to expect from National One. Some clubs don’t realise there is little difference between the Championship and our league.”
He added: “Coventry are also a strong side – almost every game I have played against them has been decided by a single try – and you never know what you’re going to get from Fylde.
“It is no doubt going to be challenging, and whoever we face we will have to roll our sleeves up and get on with it.
“We have a tough start with three games away from home, but if you want to win the title you have to win those games.”