Geoff Parling: Exeter Chiefs hungrier than ever for success
Last season saw Exeter Chiefs reach the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final for the first time in their history, but rather than resting on their laurels Geoff Parling claims the Twickenham defeat has the squad hungrier than ever for success.
Chiefs finished second in the regular season table last term and beat Wasps 34-23 in the semi-final before going down 28-20 to Saracens at Twickenham in the Aviva Premiership showpiece.
While reaching that final – in addition to making it to the European Rugby Champions Cup quarter-finals – could be seen as a huge success for a club plying their trade in the Championship as recently as 2010, lock Parling is adamant they are aiming even higher.
“Without a doubt being at Twickenham last year has motivated us to get back,” said Parling, speaking at the launch of this year’s Aviva Community Fund alongside team-mates Henry Slade and Jack Yeandle.
“I think it was a very good year for the club’s progression but I don’t think it was a fantastic year at all.
“To stand on the pitch and watch another team lift the trophy doesn’t feel fantastic and to go out of the Champions Cup at the quarter-final stage when we were 13 points up with 15 minutes to go didn’t feel brilliant.
“There is definitely the drive there and the feeling among the players that we did really well but we didn’t close it out.
“We finished in the top two last year, so if we finish below that, it probably wouldn’t be seen as successful.
“It does change your mindset a bit when you lose a final because you really want to get some silverware.”
The Aviva Community Fund is a nationwide initiative that lends a helping hand to local communities by offering support and funding for local clubs, causes and projects.
It has already benefited over 320,000 people, through 431 winning projects across the UK, and this year, local grassroots sports clubs can apply or reapply for funding in a new, sport-specific category.
And Parling believes the importance of ensuring the health of grassroots clubs up and down the country can’t be overstated.
“I think it’s really important that grassroots rugby gets the funding it needs to continue,” he added.
“The majority of the players here at Exeter will have started at their local, grassroots clubs.
“If it wasn’t for those clubs getting them playing and enjoying the game then they probably wouldn’t have the careers that we do.
“A lot of the local clubs are led by volunteers and might be struggling for funds, so any help they can get is great.
“I have some absolutely brilliant memories of playing rugby as a youngster. I was probably 12 when I started playing, so fairly late, but still, I absolutely loved going down to Stockton which was my local club.”
Exeter lost their opening two games of this season to Wasps and Saracens and, although they have bounced back in style with victories over Harlequins and Bristol.
And while they suffered defeat to Northampton Saints last time out, Parling claims there is still plenty more to come.
“We’re better than we played in those first two games and even though we’ve picked up a couple of wins since, I still think there are improvements to be made and there is more to come,” said Parling.
“The fact that we were pretty annoyed and upset after losing to the European champions shows the standards we have at the club.”
Premiership Rugby and the 12 Aviva Premiership Rugby Clubs are supporting the Aviva Community Fund, a nationwide initiative which offers funding of up to £25,000 to grassroots sports clubs and other community organisations close to your heart. Enter at aviva.co.uk/community-fund from September 13.