Jebel Ali Dragons have come a long way this year, but Imad Reyal insists there is always room for improvement and has urged his teammates to strive for more next season instead of settling for second best.
In some ways it’s been a welcome return to form for Dragons, who reached the UAE Premiership final for the first time in three seasons.
Things have changed considerably at the Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence since that 2013/14 campaign in which back-to-back trebles were clinched.
But, after two seasons in the wilderness, Dragons stepped back into contention this season. Their appearance in the UAE Premiership final followed a top four finish in the West Asia Premiership, which saw them enter the West Asia Cup semi-finals.
They also made the Gulf Men’s League final at the Dubai Sevens, so there’s definitely cause for optimism.
But Reyal isn’t satisfied with appearing in finals, he wants Dragons to be winning them.
“We’ve set the benchmark,” said the Sri Lankan-born Reyal.
“We’ve had a couple of really bad seasons and now we’ve made the final, which was our goal. We just couldn’t finish on a high but it’s a stepping stone for next year.
“We’ll have a few players come in and a few going so we’ll look forward to another good season, but I think it needs to go higher again. Doha and Bahrain are getting better and the standard is getting higher, so we’ve got to go to another level too, starting with pre-season.”
UAE international Reyal is likely to be in the mix for national team selection for next month’s Asia Rugby Championship Division I tour to Malaysia, and he heaped praise on his club coach Henry Paul for the impact he’s had on the team and him in his first season at the helm.
“I’ve been at Dragons a long time, so it’s good to come back this season with Henry in charge after a couple of bad years,” added Reyal.
“Henry’s an amazing coach and has made me a better full-back. Usually I play pretty loosely, don’t kick well and do whatever I want but he’s taught me a lot, my kicking is better, my positional play is better. The management has been really good.”