Stewart: Hard work is on the way

Coventry Blaze coach Danny Stewart is ready to get back to action (PHOTO: Scott Wiggins)

Coventry Blaze head coach Danny Stewart says his team have to move on from the success of the 2019/20 side.

Blaze will take on Guildford Flames this weekend in the first competitive matches of the new season, meeting in a Challenge Cup double header, starting in Surrey on Saturday.

And Stewart also spoke of being able to have a core team from that side that finished third prior to the coronavirus lockdown.

“We were fortunate to get a core back from our 19/20 season and some have been lucky to have played last season, others a little bit and others less so, but the first two weeks will be about getting the kinks and the rust out,” Stewart said.

“It’s certainly good to have those players back and for the first time, I’ve been able to bring a lot of them back.  We don’t need to have to teach 13/14 players how we do things.  It helps to have that continuity.

“We have to get down and work and it won’t be a case of picking up where we left off after 19/20.  Other teams have retooled and recruited well so we have to get to it.”

Stewart also spoke of the challenges he’s faced in recruiting this season’s team, with different variables coming into play.

But he says the return of the fans to the Skydome in Sunday’s return game will make it worthwhile as he pointed out one upside to a building full of loud cheering supporters.

“I think in the last 18 months, you found a lot of players were maybe pushed into retirement and there was less volume and quality in the market,” he added.

“Visa processes are a little tougher, plus dealing with vaccinations and Covid tests have been fairly new challenges for us this season so it’s been more hectic this time around.

“But having crowds back will be a big impact.  They play a big part in the atmosphere and the energy the guys can give us.  As we saw in the mini series, it was quite different. Now people won’t hear me on the bench.

“Not being able to go to a live game has been a big miss for a lot of people.  I;ve even met some fans in the town and they’re excited to get back.

“We have fans who have been around from the beginning, 20 plus years of coming to games so it’ll be great for them to return to the Skydome.

“It’ll be a great feeling and you won’t really appreciate it until you’re sitting on that bench and pick up on the atmosphere in the building.”

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