Evan Stewart, Player of Season, talks about his 1st season at the Club
Evan Stewart, who joined the Club last summer, has made a great impression in his initial season at the Woodlands. 25 appearances, 16 tries and some outstanding performances is more than a fair return in the tough National One division. The former Macclesfield & Loughborough Students skipper took up a teaching post at Lancaster Royal Grammar School in September and it's the Club's great fortune that he joined the Claret & Golds.
Following his election as the Players Player of the Season last Sunday, we caught up with Evan and he answered a few questions.
Q. How do you feel your 1st season at Fylde has gone generally?
A. It's been a great experience. It was always going to be difficult with it being the Club's 1st season in National 1 for a number of years, but with the style we played with it was a wonderful experience. To finish 4th was a superb achievement with quite a small squad. On a personal note, I felt I had a decent season. I have been carrying a few knocks for most of the campaign and would have liked to play in all matches but the nature of the game these days and the way I like to play I was always going to struggle. To have been voted Players Player of the year is something I am hugely proud of. To know that your team mates appreciate what you do is a great feeling.
Q. How have you integrated into the squad given that you mustn't have known most of the players too well before last summer?
A. Not knowing many of the boys wasn't a huge problem as the squad and the Club were so welcoming. I feel I have been able to integrate into the Club's culture very well, which is huge credit to everyone involved in the Club. The team itself was very easy to get to know. All the lads are fairly easy going and welcomed me right from the start. They actually made myself and Alex Loney social secretaries very early on in the year which was good - even if I was carrying Alex for most of the year ...!
Q. What are the most notable characteristics of the team's coaching and style of play?
A. We play a style that most people who haven't actually seen much of us would call "loose". We know that although we want to get the ball wide and use the assets we have on the wings we must earn that. If you look at some of the best tries we have scored they have been a real team effort with maybe 10/12 phases and almost every player being involved.
In terms of coaching I think we are massively lucky that we have three of the best coaches in the country if not the world. They all bring their own ideas to the table and give us a framework to play to, but maybe more importantly allow us as players to make decisions on what we see, rather than predetermined calls. With a lot of really intelligent players (and Oli Brennand!) in the team we are a threat right across the board. This allows us to really take teams on in a number of ways. The next step is to develop our style further and ensure that some of the games we should have perhaps won this year will have a better result next year.
Q. Has it been interesting to play county championship rugby with Lancashire, or is it just more of the same as with Fylde?
A. Coming together with other players at the end of a long season is always interesting. Having played with or against most of the Lancs team at some point means that we all know each other to a certain degree. The squad itself has come together really well and it is always nice to leave the club hat at the door and come together for the County Championship.
I don't think we play just like the Fylde team as there are a number of players from other clubs who bring their own style and skill set, but there is definitely a Fylde influence with Mark Nelson and Paul Arnold being part of the coaching staff.
Q. What was it like playing the final game at Jersey in front of a big crowd?
A. Jersey was a great experience and I really do wish them well for next season. The Club and players were tremendous on the day considering they had already won the league and could have virtually ignored us to enjoy their day. They in fact did the opposite and made us feel very welcome right from the start. It was just a real pity about the result on the day. Playing in front of a crowd is something I really enjoy. It is testament to Fylde and to National 1 that we have been involved in some of the best attended games of the season.
Q. Finally, what have the Fylde crowds been like?
A. The Fylde crowd has been fantastic all year. Some of the home games have felt like there were 10,000 watching. They really get behind the team and make a real difference. One of my best experiences with the Fylde fans was actually an away game at Macclesfield. They made more noise than the Macc crowd and it was actually mentioned by their Director of Rugby. To out do a home crowd says everything about the Fylde fans and how much they enjoy their rugby.