The Blackpool Gazette’s Sports Editor, Andy Moore, talked to Fylde Joint Head Coach Alex Loney. Reproduced courtesy of the Gazette.
Fylde RFC supporters could still see some rugby this season in the second half of May.
That’s the hope of the club’s new joint-head coach Alex Loney as he looks forward to welcoming the senior squad back to the Woodlands at the end of this month. It’s all dependent upon the government’s roadmap out of lockdown remaining on track – but as things stand the club can resume rugby activity on March 29 and stage matches in front of limited crowds from May 17.
This weekend, it will be exactly a year since Fylde’s last National League fixture. A 2020/21 league season was ruled out four months ago and plans for an alternative competition were dashed by the latest lockdown.
The last hope for the season is some local friendlies, which ex-hooker Loney hopes will be possible but his top priority is to begin working with the squad. He told The Gazette: “Without having too fixed a plan, we are intending to get the lads together as soon as we can and see what comes of that, making sure we have all the Covid provisions in place. The boys are eager to get back to the club.
“The focus will be on the 2021/22 season and any decisions would have to be based on what is for the benefit of the boys looking ahead to a 30-game season in the National League.
“It’s one thing being allowed to resume sport (on March 29) but that’s a world away from being ready to play, especially with the contact element of our game.
“You have to reach a certain level in training before you can even think about playing matches. It’s hard in training to replicate the acceleration, deceleration and changes of direction you see in sport, so that’s why your conditioning is so important.”
But if the players are able to train through April and the first half of May, the possibility of playing matches later that month has been discussed.
Loney added: “The idea of playing friendlies has been mooted and the boys are keen to play.
“But it’s down to timelines. You would need enough training time to get the boys prepared and we’d need to be sure it’s safe.
“The overriding factor has to be the safety of players and spectators because playing behind closed doors would not appeal.
“We are looking to reconnect with people and to put on rugby activity for the community as soon as we can do so safely.”
Any May matches would bring money into the club and ease the pressures on pre-season, though Loney admits: “The window of opportunity to play is quite short.
“Ideally we wouldn’t want to be rolling into June and nowhere near July because our priority has to be next season.
“You definitely don’t want to get into the situation of having a lot of pre-season games because people haven’t played for nearly 18 months. We are in an attritional league of 30 games and the last thing you want is to start losing bodies in pre-season.
“May matches could work but it’s a fluid plan at the minute, so we’ll just see how it goes.”
Before then Loney is looking forward to returning next week to Lancaster Royal Grammar School, where he works as director of rugby.
He added: “We are back in school next week full-time, having delivered online learning, and I can’t wait.
“I haven’t spoken to a teacher who doesn’t want to go back, especially on the PE side as the weather is starting to improve.”