Adel Al Hendi believes his injury woes of last season are behind him and he is looking ahead to the 2015/16 campaign with Abu Dhabi Harlequins and the UAE.
The winger, who was named Emirati Player of the Year at the inaugural UAE Rugby Annual Awards in 2014, enjoyed a flying start to last season, scoring a try on the opening day of the UAE Premiership season against Dubai Hurricanes.
Al Hendi went on to lift the Premiership and Dubai Sevens trophies with Quins, but missed the whole of the Gulf Top Six campaign with a groin injury as they missed out on a treble. The 20-year-old admits he was naive with managing his body last season, but with his injury behind him, can’t wait to get going for both club and country.
“This is the most excited I’ve ever been for a season,” Al Hendi said.
“Quins are looking unbelievable, I don’t even know if I stand a chance of getting in the team but I can’t wait to get back.”
Al Hendi injured his groin in the second Premiership game of the campaign against Abu Dhabi rivals Saracens but completed the Premiership season and then played at the Dubai Sevens in December.
“Last season started really well but then I kind of faded out,” said Al Hendi. “I had a groin problem and I didn’t manage it very well, but it’s sorted now, I know how to manage it but last season I kept on trying to come back and I played through it.
“It was never going to be a case of me waking up the next day and it being better so I’ve learned to be more disciplined, to rest and recover and look after my body properly. I’ve had it for 10 months so now, if I get injured again, I’ll stop and fix it.”
Al Hendi is currently training with the UAE Under-20 sevens team as they prepare to jet out to the Far East for two tournaments in August.
They head to Malaysia on August 7 for a tournament between August 16-17, going on from there to Hong Kong for another two-day tournament between August 22-23.
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Joint player/coach Sean Crombie has left the Jebel Ali Dragons but the cause of his exit remains shrouded in secrecy.
Crombie, 28, is to return home to Scotland but club chairman Mike Lewis admits he is “not sure of the reasons” behind his departure, although he has heaped praise on a player who was part of a dominant Dragons which won successive trebles in 2012/13 and 2013/14.
The club, however, struggled after the hooker and team-mate Murray Strang took on player/coach roles after the surprise departure of Ross Mills last season.
They laboured into the Gulf Top Six after finishing fourth in the UAE Premiership and won only two of eight games in the GT6 – finishing fifth – just two points above rock bottom Bahrain.
They were also knocked out at the quarter-final stage of the Dubai Sevens. The club announced last month they were looking to appoint a dedicated head coach to run the team next season, although Crombie and Strang were expected to remain at the Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence as players.
Crombie, who has played for Scotland’s sevens and also represented his country at Under-19 and Under-21 level, was the first ever player of the year winner at the UAE Rugby Annual Awards in April 2014. His departure is a major blow for an already-vulnerable Dragons following a disastrous campaign.
“I’m not sure of the reasons but he’s returning home to Scotland,” said Dragons chairman Lewis. “I haven’t had a conversation with him about the reasons but I think he’s decided it’s the better option.
“Sean’s a larger than life character and will be missed by all the boys. He’s been a top player and has also been influential off the field too. He’s always vocal and has lots of experience, while outside the club lots of people know and respect him in the UAE rugby community.”
UAE captain and a long-time clubmate of Crombie’s Adam Telford added: “Losing Sean is a major blow. He’s been a big factor at Dragons, a big influence as both a player and a coach, and losing him will be tough.
“He made a massive impact when he came out here and blew the league away in his first season. One of his first games was the 2013 UAE Premiership final against Dubai Hurricanes and he was man-of-the-match.”
UAE captain Adam Telford is determined to go out in a blaze of glory as he prepares for one final hurrah as a rugby player before hanging up the boots.
— Sport360° (@Sport360) June 22, 2015
The Ulsterman wants to end his career on a high and is determined to do that with both his adopted nation and beloved Jebel Ali Dragons.
The 33-year-old missed the entire 2014/15 domestic rugby campaign after tearing his left bicep in Dragons’ first pre-season fixture against Abu Dhabi Saracens.
The campaign ended on a brigh-ter note as Telford captained the UAE on their end of season tour to Malaysia at the Asian Rugby Championships.
The UAE might have failed to bounce back to the second tier of Asian rugby at the first attempt following their relegation in 2014, but strides forward were made.
Roelof Kotze’s new-look side battered Thailand 53-22 in their opening Division II fixture in Kuala Lumpur in May before a narrow 20-19 defeat to the hosts.
That effectively ended their chances of promotion but they finished on a high with a 16-12 triumph against Chinese Taipei to get people talking positively again about the national side. Telford is looking to maintain those good vibes.
“I’m 35 next October (2016) and I’d always set that as a benchmark to finish my career,” said the number eight, who recently became a father for the second time.
“I’ve got family commitments so this will probably be my last year at this level, but I want to finish on a high with both the UAE and Dragons.
“Those are the two aims I’m setting, it would be a great way to finish my rugby career if I could achieve those two. The UAE have turned a corner but the Dragons have turned the other way so it would be great to turn the tide for them.”
While his season-ending injury hurt, even more painful for Telford was watching his club’s drastic demise from the sidelines, which included new force Sarries usurping them as West Asia Cup winners. Dragons went from being back-to-back treble winners to losing 11 competitive games and winning just eight.
Not only were they shorn of the successive UAE Premiership, West Asia Cup and Dubai Sevens Gulf Men’s League titles they won in 2012/13 and 2013/14, they were ruthlessly ravaged, the rest of the UAE clubs picking at their bones.
— Gameday (@ADSaracens) March 14, 2015
“It was a disappointing season as we weren’t in the mix and the end, which was hard to take after nearly three years of dominance,” said the man from Belfast.
“We’d been so used to going out and winning and not being too worried about other teams. We had to go from that winning culture to going into games not expecting to win and some boys feeling like underdogs.
“That was an alien feeling, I’d never had that feeling as a Dragon before. It was tough to watch last season, so that’s part of the reason why I’m determined to get back, I want to get Dragons back to where they belong.”