Things appear to be on the up for Abu Dhabi Saracens after a few tumultuous seasons.
There is real excitement emerging from the shadows of Abu Dhabi International Airport that one of the capital’s two rugby clubs can achieve lift-off next season.
Abu Dhabi Saracens suffered endless turbulence last season and there were fears the club could even drop out of the sky altogether.
After winning the West Asia Championship in 2015 – having only formed four years earlier – Sarries appeared to be soaring.
However, after chairman Dave Jackson stepped aside, things began to go awry. Two years of seeing their talented player pool plundered by rivals saw them unable to compete on the field.
Off it, meanwhile, they started last term homeless following the closure of Al Ghazal Golf Club and subsequent loss of rugby pitch, their nest since coming into existence in 2011.
Sarries played a number of home games early on at Al Forsan last term, while changes behind the scenes also left the ship rudderless – long-term chairman Jay Danielson returned home to Australia at Christmas.
Player numbers actually swelled even though they suffered the indignity of being fledgling team Dubai Eagles’ maiden victims, while they also finished below them and rock bottom of both the West Asia and UAE Premiership.
They withstood the ups and downs though and got through the season.
They even returned to their home ground at Al Ghazal – a mere few minutes’ flight from the airport – when new owners for the golf club were found.
They may have had wings clipped, but under the guidance of head coach Peter Henderson – himself a pilot for Etihad – there is renewed hope and optimism that things could be looking up again for the club.
“At Abu Dhabi Saracens we have been busy in the past month working on our pre-season but also setting up club infrastructure, our new website is now live so we are going through a transformation,” said vice chairman Richard Croft.
“So far we’ve brought in five or six quality new players, a couple from overseas and some moving over to us from other UAE clubs.”
Sarries are dead serious about taking a huge leap forward in 2018/19, both on and off the field, evidenced by a proper club structure being put in place.
“A world Class preparation platform has been provided covering strength and conditioning preparation and player welfare,” added Croft.
“We have been lucky to have fantastic support for our pre-season from our fitness partners European Club and Vanity Fitness (European club supporting the men’s strength programme and Vanity supporting the ladies’ dedicated fitness sessions).
“We are lucky to have partnerships agreed covering a qualified orthopedic surgeon and his team of physios, combined with Smilerite which provide medical, physio and dental protection needs for all our members.”
On the field, meanwhile, the players and coaches have been hard at it, with pre-season starting supremely early, on June 21.
“Pre-season phase one has been going well with five quality focused sessions per week concentrating on strength, conditioning and baseline fitness,” Croft went on.
“Numbers have been strong considering the time of year, with people away on holiday, as over 60 per cent of the squad are training together.
“We now look ahead to phase two commencing on July 29, with six sessions a week, while strength training continues we also move focus to skills and rugby development.”
Sarries and other clubs across the UAE will be returning to pre-season at different times over the summer. But clubs have a finite amount of time to add to their squads for the coming season, with the UAE Rugby Federation’s Rugby Player Transfer Window closing on July 31.
You can visit the new Saracens website at www.adsaracens.com.