A tribute to 29 of Fylde’s overseas players

By January 17, 2021Latest News
As with most clubs of Fylde’s rank and status, almost all its players in its first 75 years up to the mid-1990s were British. A few were born in other countries but were or became naturalised Brits. The most outstanding of these was Australian-born Bill Howarth who joined the Club immediately post the 2ndWW, gained a soccer blue at Cambridge, was a brilliant fly-half or centre and a regular Lancashire stalwart who became skipper, played into his 40s and when his playing days had finished Fixtures Secretary and then Chairman. Frank Pastore’s Brief History of Fylde said: “Howarth had been a tremendous force in the Club.”
What of the contribution of players from other countries to Fylde’s history? The roster of players that we have identified will, almost certainly, not be comprehensive. But all of them have brought a welcome cosmopolitan atmosphere to this decidedly non-cosmopolitan slice of the Lancashire coast. They have in their different ways lit up the Club and broadened our rugby and cultural perspective.
The first true overseas player we can trace is prop or hooker Neil Falloon, a New Zealander who moved to the local area in the early 1960s for two or three years due to a job in a large engineering company.
A more documented arrival from New Zealand was fullback or fly-half Paul Turner who arrived hot foot from major regional side Otago for the 1983-4 season. He made a major contribution to a squad that rather struggled during that campaign. Turner was a very decent goal kicker and top scored with 104 points during his single season with us.
We have to wait for the arrival of the professional era in the mid-1990s to welcome other players from overseas to the Woodlands. Of the 26 players who we have identified, the most influential has been Matthew Tetai Filipo who was part of the strengthening of the squad when it reached Allied Dunbar Premiership Two, the 2nd tier of English rugby, in 1997-8. The 26 year old loose head prop came with an impressive Kiwi CV, including caps for NZ Colts, Auckland A, Otago A and Counties Manukau. After a couple of seasons as a mainstay of the Fylde pack, he had brief spells at Bath Rugby and Bridgend before returning to the Woodlands for the 2000-01 campaign. He became the Club’s first overseas skipper and played on up to and including the 2009-10 season. In all, Matt amassed 156 1st XV appearances despite a succession of injuries towards the end of his playing career. He has subsequently served on the Club’s General Committee and is still a popular, active member involved in coaching the Mini-Juniors and encouraging his sons Jacob and Henry as they progress through the MJ ranks.
The bolstering of local players in that most demanding 1997-8 season involved the recruitment of two further overseas players. Brian McCarthy was a tough lock forward who had earned full caps for Canada and arrived after a season with Nottingham. He was sufficiently versatile to play some matches at prop when injuries required it. His confrontation with former Fylde, then Orrell, hooker Alex Moffatt, in December 1997 at the Woodlands, remains in the memory!
The third newcomer was the Club’s first South African recruit, lock Karl Kumbier, who went on to earn international honours with Germany.
The following season in Premiership Two was a similar struggle against the odds for a Fylde squad facing numerous clubs with huge budgets fueled by the ambitions of owners with steely eyes on promotion to the Premiership in these early, crazy days of professionalism. New head coach was former player Mark Nelson and he did his best to build a squad that could survive in the division.
He recruited a number of British players but added some overseas talent into the 1998-9 mix including USA 7s international and flanker Marty Smithmayer and, in particular, Morne Loxton. This quick footed, all round talented back had junior international caps for South Africa at U’15s, 17s, 19s and 21s and had also played for Eastern Providence. His star performance was in the famous 39-43 defeat by promotion winning Bristol at the Woodlands where his personal haul was 18 points. He had a second spell at the Club under new head coach Stuart Connell in 2002-3. In all, he made 28 1st XV appearances.
During the late 1990s, legendary former player and head coach Tony Todd was teaching rugby at Rossall School in Fleetwood. With Todd’s encouragement, the School offered rugby scholarships to a clutch of very talented boys from Western Samoa, as it was then called.
Over a period of four seasons, five of these students were sufficiently good to make the Fylde 1st XV. The most outstanding was certainly Mussolini ‘Musty’ Schuster, a mercurial three quarter who went on to earn full Samoan caps at 15 a-side and, particularly, 7s levels. He made just 11 appearances for Fylde but these clearly marked him out as a player of great potential. Joining him in the 1st XV in the 1998-9 season was centre Greg Meredith who subsequently played a few times for Worcester Warriors and for Marist and Nelson Bay in New Zealand.
Both played a few more games the following season, 1999-2000, and were joined by two others, powerful prop Daniel Aselele and fly-half Josh Kyle. A fifth youngster, Isaac Tuala, appeared fleetingly in 2000-01.
Another Samoan joined the Club for the 1999-2000 season, the experienced and durable prop Wallace Tao. He went on to make 20 1st XV appearances during that season.
He was joined that season by South African no 8 Mike Dreyer who became a popular figure in the two seasons he was at the Woodlands. The accountant from Durbanville was an accomplished player and made 46 1st XV appearances in all.
A star youngster in the making was on an exchange at Kirkham Grammar and made his way to the Woodlands. New Zealander Brent Wilson was spotted immediately as a very promising backrow talent. He made his 1st XV debut in Dec 2000 v Harrogate and went on to make a total of 31 1st XV appearances before joining first Newcastle Falcons and then having a long spell at Nottingham, including a period as skipper. Back home he played for North Harbour and represented the All Blacks at 7s level.
By the start of the 2002-3 season, the coaching responsibilities were in the hands of Stuart Connell and Martin Scott and they recruited a number of overseas players over the next few seasons to strengthen the squad. These included South African prop Barend ‘Os’ Van der Walt (15 appearances between 2003-5) from and Kiwi lock Aaron Rameka (8 appearances) from the Kahukura club before visa problems forced him home.
A much longer standing recruit was popular South African centre Paul Reeves who had made his way to English professional rugby via a spell at Leicester Tigers. He also made his debut in the 2002-3 season, notched up 125 1st XV appearances in six seasons at the Club and was a model of consistency and reliability.
The Club had a significant boost in the 2004-5 season with the arrival of two very influential back row talents. New Zealand openside flanker Quentin King came to the Club on the recommendation of Tom Lavelle who spent a few seasons at King’s Silverdale RFC in North Island. He was a dynamic presence all over the pitch and brought the usual Kiwi mix of technical skill and competitiveness. He made 47 appearances in two seasons. Out of the same mould, but this time from South Africa, came Michael Vermaak who joined from the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. The blond no 8 was as hard as nails and thrived in loose play showing off his 7s skills of pace and durability. He made 25 appearances before returning to South Africa.
With King staying on for the 2005-6 season, he was joined by fellow Kiwi Daniel Fluker. The diminutive scrum-half or winger came from the Bay of Plenty club in Rotorua and was a useful addition to the 1st XV squad, making his league debut in 2006-7, and he became a popular club man.
Another arrival that season was a young South African, Juan Crous, who had gained a fine reputation in a season with Vale of Lune. He played just four times for the Fylde 1st XV but moved to Preston Grasshoppers for a season and then had eleven campaigns as a huge presence at Sedgley Park including an important spell as skipper.
In 2006-7 it was necessary to strengthen the roster of props and Samoan international Malaga Leota joined the Club following experience in New Zealand at Western Suburbs, Wellington and Wanganui. A very powerful scrummager, he made 14 appearances that season. He has subsequently become an influential forwards coach in New Zealand.

Another overseas player to wear the claret and gold was lock Oliver Atkinson who played five 1st XV games on loan from Moseley in the 2008-9 season. He was a Canadian international with previous overseas experience at Bordeaux Begles. By this time, changing RFU and Home Office regulations on National League players eventually became much stricter and visas for overseas players became hard to obtain at Fylde’s level.

Fylde have given chances to many RL players over the years. In 2009-10 USA RL international Taylor Welch made his debut in National League RU with Fylde. He made five more appearances. Subsequently he’s played in RL SuperLeague and in Australia.
One of Fylde’s very best overseas players was scrum-half Ryan De La Harpe. He came to the UK, played occasionally for Sale teams and West Park before sorting out visa issues and joining Fylde in the 2012-13 season. His partnership with fly-half Chris Johnson was very influential as Fylde surprised big spending opponents in National One. He stayed for the best part of four seasons and made 89 1st XV appearances. He earned numerous caps for his native Namibia as well as Lancashire and was recognised for his outstanding ability with a Barbarians cap.
Even more recent recruits included the outstanding backrower from New Zealand via Heriot’s in Edinburgh, Jack Turley for the 2016-17 season. He had skippered Heriots to the Scottish clubs’ championship in 2015-16 and his leadership abilities were easily recognised alongside great technical skill and competitiveness. He made 25 1st XV appearances before returning to NZ at the end of that season.
The Club’s link with Sale Sharks introduced a young Australian (with British grandparents) to the Club in the difficult 2017-18 National One campaign. Alex Dolly is a versatile talent, comfortable in either half-back position or at fullback. He’s also a more than competent goal kicker who has gone on to play for Jersey, Rotherham Titans and Nottingham in the Championship.
Finally to date, winger Lex Botha, a graduate of the Natal Sharks Academy, joined the Club in the 2018-19 season. Visa problems restricted his opportunities then but by 2019-20 he played a full part in the Club’s National Two (North) campaign. His hard, direct running led to his 21 1st XV appearances for the Club, scoring four tries last season.
In summary, we pay tribute to these 26 players, with sincere apologies to any we’ve missed. We hope through the experience that these players had at the Woodlands that the name of Fylde RFC is somewhat better known and respected around the world. For their contributions to the Club we are truly grateful. The middle of a global pandemic isn’t the best time to remind them of a warm welcome back at their old club should they be in the UK. In another way, perhaps it’s just the right time to stress the Club’s global connections and personal networks as we look forward to a much brighter 2021.
Click here for some photos of these players. http://bit.ly/3nZqvEY

PAUL REEVES                                                                                                   MORNE LOXTON

QUENTIN KING                                                                                                          MICHAEL VERMAAK

BRENT WILSON                                                                                                        AARON RAMEKA

GREG MEREDITH                                                                                                             RYAN DE LA HARPE

JACK TURLEY                                                                                                   ALEX DOLLY

LEX BOTHA

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