Not many players start the season by scoring 12 tries in five games, especially a back row, but Belfast Harlequins number eight Chris McCarey has achieved such a feat.
IrishRugby.ie asked 'Quins player manager Conor Keown, the wily prop, to run the rule over McCarey, his side's Ulster Senior League form, 'Quins up-and-coming players and the AIB League season ahead.
- ON CHRIS MCCAREY -
"I have been calling Chris 'a man on fire' this season. As 1st XV captain last season, he broke his ankle early on, during an Ulster Senior League game. That seemed to unsettle him somewhat for the rest of the season and he never really got fully back into his game.
"This season Chris has resumed the captain's role, as Colin Atkinson sustained a bad shoulder injury during a pre-season friendly. Chris seems to be enjoying his rugby more than ever this year. That's probably down to a combination of being fully fit again, being married to his lovely new wife Gemma and returning to his own school Belfast Royal Academy to take up a PE post.
"I have watched all five matches (in which he scored his tries), and not letting the fact that it was Ulster League opposition take away from his stats, Chris certainly has been very impressive - scoring tries from five metres out, from the halfway line and even one from his own 22!
"He has been one of the most consistently good players for Harlequins over the past five years in AIB League Division One. He is one of those natural athletes, and he surely must be one of the most underrated players in Ulster rugby. He is very impressive going forward, particularly from the back of the scrum, and also sharp in defence.
"Probably Chris' biggest drawback is his modest attitude towards his own ability, which may have held him back in the past. However, I think Chris is still young enough and certainly has the ability to develop further in his playing career."
- ON 'QUINS' FIVE WINS FROM FIVE IN THE ULSTER LEAGUE -
"There are basically three 'big' teams in the Ulster Senior League - ourselves, Ballymena and Dungannon. We have already beaten Ballymena, a few weeks ago, so I guess it might go down to the wire between ourselves and Dungannon. But there are a few 'banana skin' teams such as Rainey Old Boys and Malone. We are due to play Rainey next Saturday and there is an Ulster 'A' fixture on the Friday night, so we will see what happens.
"The good start to the season is a combination of things - hard work and players gelling and the like. Also (coach) Andy Ward and (backs coach) Maurice Field have worked the guys hard during pre-season, including a training camp in Italy. Since then, the squad trains four nights a week - Monday, Tuesday and Thursday on the pitch and Wednesday night in the gym.
"There is a lot of hard work that goes on, and if the guys didn't enjoy the training and the camaraderie, then they wouldn't do it. Team spirit is everything and it promotes success."
...Paul McKenzie in action against Dublin University...
- ON 'QUINS' UP-AND-COMING PLAYERS -
"I have watched many of our young players develop over the past four years and it is great to see a number of them step up to a higher level. We had eight players - Mark Kettyle, Paul McKenzie, Paul Marshall, Niall Conlon, Lewis Stevenson, Chris McCarey, Stuart Philpott and Niall O'Connor - in the Ulster 'A' squad for their match this week against the Munster'A' side.
"You couldn't be anything but proud of them. In particular, I think Lewis Stevenson has come on fantastically, he sticks out like a sore thumb during the Ulster League matches - a naturally big, strong and athletic second row. He is one to watch out for.
"Paul Marshall has rejoined the club from Ballynahinch - it is always good to see a scrum half with a bit of an edge about him and being able to 'punch' well above his weight. Also, the Kettyle-McKenzie combination in the back line has looked promising, so we will be expecting big things from them.
"We hope to see many of them make a further step-up in the near future, just like what the Best brothers, Neil Best and Roger Wilson have done before them. Although we like to see the guys get the chance to develop further, it does worry us that we may be without some of them throughout the season due to representative games."
- ON THE NEW AIB LEAGUE SEASON -
"We have a young team that has been together for a few seasons now, and having finished sixth in Division One last year, I think we can realistically be targeting a top four slot this season.
"It would be a shame for the season to be disrupted due to call-ups, but hopefully, it will not amount to more than one or two at any one time. However, we are fortunate to have a reasonable strength in depth, with some good club players in our squad.
"This week Wardy has slowed down the pace of training, but over the next two weeks he will be building the whole thing up again for the first AIB League game away to Galwegians. During this period we plan to hit the ground running, but Wardy would hope to have the team peaking during December and January when we have to play Cork Constitution, Clontarf, Garryowen and Shannon.
"I have no doubt we have the players to achieve our goals this season, especially when you consider that we threw away games like the ones against St. Mary's and Buccaneers last year and still finished sixth. With another season's experience under their belt, when these guys click together expect to see a lot of exciting rugby."