Fylde meet two of England’s oldest clubs when they open the National Two (North) 2018-19 season. On September 8th they travel to local rivals, 149 years old Preston Grasshoppers. First up, however, is a club claiming to be even older, maybe vying with Blackheath for the status of England’s oldest. Otley was founded in 1865 and has had a famous history since then.
They visit Fylde on Saturday (ko 15.00) for the first time since the 25th March 2000 when the home side won by 23-17 in a National One (level 3) game. At that time, Otley were on their way upwards through the leagues, whilst Fylde were slipping down. By the 2003-4 season, Otley were competing at level 2, Fylde at level 4. Seven seasons later, Fylde were promoted back to level 3 whilst Otley were relegated to level 4. So once again, the clubs avoided each other in league action. The first ever fixture between the two clubs was, however, 90 years ago, in 1928.
For Otley, life in National Two (North) has been rather up and down in the last seven seasons. They finished 5th in 2012-13, 11th & 12th in the last two campaigns. The Club’s Cross Green Ground is iconic, as a location for not only senior Yorkshire rugby but also even higher representative matches. Most famously, this included the North of England’s victory over the All Blacks in 1979 and again in 1988 when the Wallabies were the victims of a North XV. The Club is now looking for a new location and stadium in the borough.
New Otley club chairman Paul Mackie says that their potential move away is an absolute no-brainer. “[Cross Green] is dilapidated and in need of constant repair and weekly maintenance. Planning permission is set to be simultaneously submitted to Leeds City Council for both the assisted living development at Cross Green by McCarthy and Stone and Otley RUFC’s new £3m-£4m premises to the east of the East of Otley relief road.
Mackie said: “A new facility could deliver a clubhouse and sufficient pitches to secure senior rugby in Otley for the next 150 years. We are currently asset rich and cash poor. This could make us asset rich and cash comfortable. It is also very much part of the plan that we remain a National League rugby club, and it is hoped that we will be playing at our new premises for the start of the 2021-22 season.”
Otley’s Director of Rugby is Peter Clegg and the Head Coach is Charlie Maunder, assisted by player/coach Tom Casson, the ex-Harlequins & Yorkshire Carnegie player. They will be fielding a strong squad this season, with a mix of experienced campaigners with Yorkshire County honours and young talent. Their pre-season games have been positive, with victories against Billingham (48-24) and Ilkley (29-0) and a competitive 7-27 defeat against Championship neighbours, Yorkshire Carnegie.
Their pack includes star former Newcastle Falcons hooker Joe Graham, lock Declan Dunn, props George Burkinshaw and Jason Moss, backrowers Brett Mitchell, Jack Scott-Paul and Freddie Watson.
Their backline revolves around scrum-half and principal goal kicker Joe Rowntree, fullback/wing Paul Petchey and centre Tom Casson. There have been startling debuts in pre-season by former Ilkley fullback Ben McGee and centre Steve Nolson who scored 18 tries last season for Sandal.
Joe Rowntree topped the points scoring list last season with 199. Leading try scorer was Joe Graham with 8, followed by Paul Petchey and Tom O’Donnell with 7 and Mike Coady with 6.
Fylde Head Coach Warren Spragg and his fellow coaches faced a number of selection issues as many players have performed excellently in the two preseason games. Only a couple of the players in the squad are currently out of action through injury or illness so there were some tough choices to make. Harlan Corrie and Toby Harrison are injured and Greg Smith is unavailable.
There are Club debuts for scrum-half Cameron Crampton, prop Elliot Horner and flanker Ben O’Ryan. Tom Forster is named amongst the replacements. Although a former AKS student and Fylde Mini-Junior and Colt, he’s yet to make a 1st XV appearance for his home club. Tom had three seasons at Preston Grasshoppers where he made 36 National League appearances and some in North Premier games last season.
15 Tom Carleton; 14 Henry Hadfield, 13 Luke Fowden, 12 Connor Wilkinson, 11 Tom Grimes; 10 Chris Briers, 9 Cameron Crampton; 1 Elliot Horner, 2 Alex Loney, 3 Adam Lewis, 4 Matt Garrod, 5 Nick Ashcroft. 6 Ben O’Ryan, 7 Ben Vernon, 8 David Fairbrother.
16 Adam Joyner, 17 Ben Gregory, 18 Ollie Parkinson, 19 Tom Burtonwood, 20 Tom Forster.
Refereee: Michael Harris; AR1 Mark Rose, AR2 Steve Halliday .