MOVING back to Coventry felt just like coming home to Brett Daynes.
The 29-year-old back row forward had spent five years at Cov, reaching 100 league appearances for the club at the start of the 2014-15 campaign, before moving on to Cambridge and helping them to the National Two South title and promotion last season.
But when the opportunity came to follow director of rugby Rowland Winter across from Cambridge and return to the Butts Park Arena, Daynes – who was voted the supporters’ player of the season in 2011-12 – didn’t have to think twice.
“It feels like I never left,” said Daynes, who scored his first try of the season in last week’s 61-14 win over Macclesfield, his 108th game for the Blue & Whites. ”When you walk through the bar after a game and you see everyone, and everybody’s saying welcome back, you can’t beat it.”
Winter’s appointment was a factor in the South Africa-born flanker’s return, but there were other considerations.
“It helped, but I wanted to see if I could still play at this level and there were personal reasons as well,” said Daynes. “My wife gave birth in April and it was just the perfect timing really to come back up to this league and see if I could still do it.
“It was nice to be involved in a promotion run – although I don’t think that was anything to do with me – but it just made me realise again that rugby is all about enjoyment, and I knew that if I came back here, with the way Rowland played it at Cambridge in a style that suits me, I’d get that at Cov.
“I got injured in my last year here and only played five games, and I was in a pretty dark place.
“I told a lot of people that I was going to play lower league rugby, as a player-coach, but then Cambridge came about and I thought, you know what, actually it’s not about going further down, it’s just about being at a place where you enjoy it. And last year was really, really enjoyable.
“Now I’m enjoying being back here with a lot of the people who stayed, and the supporters who make it what it is.”
Added Daynes: “There’s a different ethos here now. They’ve got the professionalism which is great – you’ve got everything ready for you on game day, all you’ve got to do is go out and play. You’ve got no factors influencing your performance other than your own mind set.
“And training is perfect, it’s fun, and when it needs to be hard, it is. Everything has changed.”
Daynes is at something of a loss to explain Cov’s second-half performance against Macclesfield as they failed to build on an eight-try blitz in the opening period.
“I don’t really know what happened. If you are any team that’s down by 50 points you’re going to have the biggest telling off you’ve ever had at half-time, and you’re going to come back out and say let’s just take small wins when we can, and that’s exactly what Macclesfield did.
“Maybe we just got ahead of ourselves, thinking we could play the exact style of rugby we did in the first half. Sometimes you’ve got to take it back to go forward, and we didn’t take that approach.
“We have a lot to work on, but at the end of the day if you had come to me and offered a 60-point win where you are on top for the whole game, I’d say yes every time.”
Cov’s prospects for the rest of the season?
“We’ve got to look at the next few games and just take them one at time. We’ve got three hard games in succession now – Blackheath, Hartpury College and Esher – and they don’t get much tougher in this division.
“If you look at some of the results that are coming about, anyone can beat anyone, so that’s the great thing about having the depth in the squad that we’ve got.
“We’ll just take each week as it comes and see where we are come December.”