AFTER Sunday’s game, I tweeted that it was a different jersey, a different home, but same old Bristol Rugby. What a special atmosphere at Ashton Gate.
As if it wasn’t already clear to everyone involved with the club, the support is second to none and that’s one of the key elements that attracted me to join in the first place.
The feeling around the Gate on the weekend was fantastic. It felt like a rugby arena and that’s crucial as we look to stamp our identity on our new home going forward.
Fans from both sides enjoyed a beer and a pasty together in the sun, there were kids running around in Bristol shirts – everything that makes sport such a great spectacle was there. And it will only get better as we grow into our surroundings.
We have a blank canvas and the hard-fought win over Worcester was day one.
This is the start of an exciting new chapter.
We played the league favourites and notched a win. What a way to start. Seeing Ashton Gate full to the rafters, with flags waving and a world-class playing surface underlines the genuine intent of Bristol’s ambition.
We believe that we can fill that stadium – in two years time – with 25,000 people watching top-flight rugby. We’re part of that journey and so are the supporters.
I must admit, I’m not a huge watcher of rugby. It encompasses so much of my life that I try and switch off whenever I can.
But on Sunday I was completely engrossed in what was happening.
I really missed being a part of it, winning that first game at Ashton Gate is a piece of history that can’t be re-written. I’d have loved to have been involved. Having said that, I was so chuffed for the boys.
The effort that everybody has put in over the summer – players, coaches and backroom staff – was huge, so that result felt like a just reward.
We draw a line under that result now and look ahead to Yorkshire Carnegie.
It’s a great starting point, but now we have to ensure that it only gets better.
On a personal note, my rehabilitation is going well and I’m on target to be back on the field by the end of October. I’m itching to play.
I’ve spent 14 years training, so the novelty has worn off, but you always get the buzz from pulling on the jersey and playing a game. I feel at home at Bristol and have really settled here at the club.
A lot has been made about the nationality of our players and where they have come from. To me, that’s almost irrelevant. All the players that have come to the club are of a similar character: good, honest rugby people with a good attitude and who have bought into the ethos at Bristol. That has to be the case, irrespective of where you come from.
Of course, it’s important to have local lads because they have come through the pathways and inspire the next generation of players in the city.
Two such players are Marco Mama and Mitch Eadie, who signed new contracts this week. Both these guys have starred in a Bristol jersey over the last two seasons and have come up through the academy system. They’re great players to have around the training ground and on matchday.
Marco is a big, uncompromising player who makes an impact every time he plays. Mitch is at the start of his career and he’s a wonderful athlete. The challenge for him is how good he wants to be and how hard he wants to work, because the sky is the limit.