The Fylde Under 16s squad has the best playing record this season of all the Club’s teams, from 1st XV to U’6s. We caught up with Mark Merrick, one of the coaches of this exceptional group of players. Here are his comments about the squad, their character and the vital role of parental support.
“Fylde’s U’16 year group represents the club in the top level of this age group in the Lancashire Cup. In the last four years they have been losing semi-finalists twice ( U15 and U14) and twice Joint Lancashire Champions, having drawn finals matches against Vale of Lune (U’12) and Warrington (U’13).
In the current season they are undefeated. The results are:
|Vale of Lune||7-12||Fylde||Cup|
We have about 26 registered players, but do know that 3 or 4 players are looking to re-join after the Christmas holidays which will help with squad numbers. Some of the players have been with us from the beginning of the 2009/2010 season and so have played rugby for a long time and there are some who have who joined this season, having previously not played any rugby before this year. Barring Cup matches we don’t select a squad for games and pitch time is a minimum full half for each player.
It is a juggling act between keeping the more established players interested whilst coaching rugby skills to the newer guys. What is most pleasing for the coaches is that these guys perform so well week in, week out, train in all weathers with a smile on their face and all despite our ability to coach! Most of what we work on is handling and the ability to work in space and have all the players comfortable on the ball on the pitch. All the players are good ball handlers. I am not suggesting we are the rugby equivalent of the Harlem Globe Trotters but we do well from turnover and from broken field play. We would back ourselves to score more points than the opposition which at times is great to watch but at other times cab be so very frustrating as a coach.
Eight players have been selected by Lancashire for the forthcoming U16 County rugby campaign. The positions below are primarily where they are most comfortable playing but this year all have played out of their comfort zone in different positions to give them first and foremost to widen their knowledge of the game but also to provide an appreciation of other roles on the pitch. They are:
Toby Merrick – second row/ No. 8
Alex Fowler – second row/Blind side
Tristan Woodman – Blindside/No. 8
Matt Duncan – scrum half
Nathan Evans – Fly Half
Theo Bishop – Centre
Tobias Parkinson – Centre/Wing
Scott Ballard – Fullback
Tristan, Nathan, Theo and Tobias are in the Sale Development Group and Toby, Alex, Matt and Scott and in the Sale Developing Player Programme.
We have a small core of players who have been playing for 10 years now (including Toby Merrick and Nathan Evans from the above list) and have had many more come and join us over the years – Scott Ballard comes from Blackburn to all training and matches without fail. He met a number of the players at a Sale rugby camp at Myerscough in August 2017 and I think was strong armed into joining us!
We have a widespread representation and don’t solely have players from the traditional local rugby playing schools (although these do make up the backbone of the squad – AKS 8 players, KGS 3). We have 4 players from Hutton Grammar and 4 from Lytham St Annes High School for example.
What I didn’t say was that they are a super bunch. None of the coaches who are all volunteers would continue if they were problematic.
Also, and so important for team/squad harmony, is that we have brilliant of parents. Two or three have responsibilities within the MJ set up. We also have two or three who have worked over the last several years to organise socials and tours. As coaches we get no hassle and fairly unconditional support. This kind of invaluable support makes life so much easier.
I’ve taken great pleasure in seeing the kids develop and turn into “nice” young men. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome than that, however good at rugby the lads are.
But, after saying this, winning more than losing helps!”
Coaching Group: Mark Evans, Mark Merrick, Mark Morley & Craig McIntyre. Manager: Sharon Davies