We are delighted that existing 1st XV coaches Alex Loney and Chris Briers have agreed to become Joint Head Coaches with immediate effect following Warren Spragg’s appointment at Sale Sharks.
Club Chairman Michael Brennand acknowledges that a shared role is somewhat unusual but draws attention to the particular circumstances. “Alex and Chris have been friends since playing in the same Lancashire team at the age of 13. They have had similar fulltime playing careers at Championship, England Counties and Lancashire levels. With Mark Nelson’s encouragement they began coaching careers at Fylde and Lancashire and both currently have full-time rugby development jobs, Alex as Director of Rugby at Lancaster Royal Grammar School, Chris as Lecturer at Myerscough College’s Rugby Academy. Very importantly, they share a similar coaching philosophy.”
Alex (37) joined Fylde from Rotherham in the summer of 2011, played a full season in 2011/12 and a few games the following campaign before suffering a serious knee injury which kept him out of action for the best part of two seasons. He was back in the action in 2014-15 although school duties at Stonyhurst College severely restricted his playing opportunities. In May 2017 playing for Lancashire at Cheshire he ruptured his achilles and that once more kept him out of action for several months. A move to be Director of Rugby at Lancaster Royal Grammar School in 2018-19 has enabled him to play more regularly and he made 30 appearances in the last two seasons.
Hooker (and sometimes prop) Loney proudly led Lancashire to the 2011 County Championship title at Twickenham. He grew up in Manchester and played junior rugby for Aldwinians & Sedgley Park before moving to Kirkham Grammar School.
He gained representative honours with England U’18s & U’19s before moving to Leicester Tigers Academy in 2003. He joined Nottingham in 2004 and went on to make 123 1st team appearances in five seasons. A season with French club Avignon in 2009/10 was followed by a move to Rotherham Titans in 2010/11 where he made 28 1st team appearances and helped them to the Championship play-offs.
Chris Briers was another Mark Nelson recruit for Fylde ahead of the 2011-12 season. He has had an accomplished playing career, making his debut for Sale Sharks in 2003-4, moving on to Orrell, Sedgley Tigers, Rotherham Titans and Doncaster Knights. He was Fylde’s 1st team skipper between 2015-2017,
Centre (or sometimes fullback, wing or fly-half) Chris (37) has also proved incredibly durable, making no fewer than 405 National League appearances for five clubs. Just over half of those, 219, have been in Fylde’s claret and gold colours, with an impressive strike rate of 63 tries. To average 25 league games a season across 16 years, plus numerous appearances for Lancashire on top, in such a fiercely physical sport is an extraordinary achievement.
He has earned representative honours with England Counties and has many caps for Lancashire. He is a lecturer in Rugby & Sport at Myerscough College. He is currently Lancashire Academy Lead Coach, Lancashire Mentor Scheme Lead Coach and Lancashire Development Centre Coach.
Alex Loney said: “I am extremely happy to be appointed alongside Chris Briers as joint Head Coach at Fylde RFC. The Club means a lot to both myself and Chris after joining Fylde in the same season just under 10 years ago. The opportunity to extend this association brings both pride and excitement, and we are confident that we can take the club forward in the next few years.
“However, before looking to the future, it is only right to give a fitting tribute to Warren Spragg who is stepping down following an opportunity for career progression at Sale Sharks. Spraggy has been a top class person to work alongside and he has done a tremendous job building an exciting squad that now performs towards the top of National 2 North. Spraggy has always offered myself and Chris opportunities to express ourselves whilst working as his assistants at Fylde, which has been great experience prior to taking more responsibility.
“This season has been extremely tough for every rugby player and club in England. Fylde 1st XV players have been great in staying in good physical condition and attending training through the various COVID return to play stages. Our squad is full of lads that are desperate to play, but everyone at Fylde knows the responsibility in keeping our communities safe. As we currently sit in another national lockdown, we will be doing what we can to get the rugby playing function back up and running when government and the RFU allow. I am in no doubt the players will continue to adapt where necessary and be ready to work hard as we continue on the journey to get back on the field.
Chris Briers said: “I’d like to echo Alex’s comments about how excited we both are to be taking on this role together at the club we have spent the majority of our playing careers. We are very lucky to be inheriting such a talented squad and we both believe that the best is yet to come from the group.
“The most important thing for us to do now is keep the squad together and engaged with the Club at this very difficult time. Nobody knows when rugby will start again, but as soon as it does we will be looking to build and develop from where we left off last season. Realistically, our main focus has to be the 2021/2022 campaign, but in order to build on last season, we need to get back on the pitch as soon as possible and reignite the squad’s enthusiasm for rugby and playing for Fylde.”