Henry Hadfield remains very much part of Fylde RFC and of its future plans following his doping ban, says head coach Warren Spragg.
The 24-year-old centre or winger is serving a two-year ban from all sport after a drug test found the prohibited substance Higenamine in his system.
Although the Cumbrian’s anti-doping violation was only made public this week, Hadfield has already served nine months of his ban and will be eligible to resume training with the squad this time next year.
Spragg stressed that, until then, it is important that Hadfield continues to feel part of the group following a mistake which the Rugby Football Union described as “not intentional”.
The Fylde boss told The Gazette: “I speak regularly to Henry and we’ve looked out for him throughout this situation.
“Although it only came out this week, we’ve dealt with it internally and supported him ever since the test.
“What he did was not intentional but the rules are the rules. We’d hoped the ban would be shorter but the powers that be have made their decision. First and foremost, it’s a lesson for everyone that we need to be vigilant.”
Hadfield made 49 first-team appearances over the past two seasons at Fylde and had been awarded a contract for this season before the club learned of his failed test.
Spragg hopes he will play for the club again in the closing weeks of next season. The coach added: “Henry will be eligible to play from April next year and he can start training with us again three months before that. Hopefully he can play a couple of games next season.
“The important thing at this club is that the players look after each other. Henry is still very much part of this group. He won’t be able to play or train with us this year but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep in touch with him and keep him involved.”
Hadfield’s previous club Tynedale are tomorrow’s visitors to the Woodlands in National Two North, the north-east club buoyed by their victory over third-placed Sedgley Park and by second-placed Fylde’s defeat at Huddersfield last weekend.
Fylde won a 34-27 thriller in Northumberland in October and Spragg said ahead of the rematch:
“Tynedale have had a mixed season and had lost five on the bounce before playing Sedgley.
“They are a good team, who will use that win as motivation this weekend. They are very well coached, effective in the lineout and move the ball well.”
The coach believes any suggestions his Fylde side have hit a sticky patch is disrespectful to their rivals in National Two North.
Fylde haven’t been at the best in recent weeks, losing two of their last four games and suffering their heaviest defeat of the season, 32-15, at Huddersfield last Saturday.
Spragg said: “It would be unfair to say we have gone off the boil because we aren’t a team that should be walking this league. What we are is a good side who work very hard for each other, but to say we’ve gone off the boil is disrespectful to a league which contains a lot of useful teams.
“We are a work in progress but we are in with a chance.”
That chance of retaining runners-up spot was boosted by third-placed Sedgley Park failing to capitalise on Fylde’s defeat last weekend.
They lost 15-8 at Tynedale and Spragg said: “We haven’t lost any ground, with Sedge and (fourth-placed) Loughborough Students losing, so we have got away with it.”
As for the Huddersfield game, Spragg added: “We started strongly but made mistakes and in the second half we got the basics wrong.”
It’s not the first time Fylde’s standards had slipped in the second half and Spragg joked a week ago that he may stop giving half-time team talks.
He added: “Yes, I did give the talk at Huddersfield … it didn’t work!”
Fylde are still without Olli Parkinson and will not have any dual-registered Sale players available this weekend, though flanker Phill Mills should be back for his first appearance of 2020.