Fylde forward Stewart's swansong demand
The countdown is on to the end of the season for Fylde rugby club.
With just three matches of the campaign to go, starting with tomorrow’s trip to Darlington Mowden Park in National League One, it would take a hugely improbable – not to say catastrophic –series of events to see Fylde lose their National League One status.
Fylde are 13 points clear of the drop zone and for them to go down, they would need to be pointless for their remaining matches and for Blaydon to pick up a maximum haul of 15 in theirs.
However, Evan Stewart, who is coming to the end of a proud spell at the Woodlands, is demanding that the team refuses to take for granted that the team is safe from relegation.
The former skipper, who will join Vale Of Lune for the 2017-18 season, said: “The danger is that we slip into the thought that we are safe already.
“We just can’t allow ourselves to think that Blaydon won’t get those points.
“I said in the changing-room after the Old Albanian match that we should target five points from each of our three matches and see what we come out with, no matter who we are playing against. We should look at it as a mini-season within a season.”
Stewart says that Fylde will have to up their game and improve on last Saturday’s disappointing home loss to Old Albanian when they went down 21-17 after trailing 21-7 at half-time, a comeback falling short.
He insisted: “We just can’t keep giving teams a head start and expect to claw it back.
“The first half Old Albanian had the ball, I imagine for 30 of the 40 minutes, if not more.
“The one time we had it in their half we scored a try.
“In the second half we kept the ball, but we were not as accurate as we needed to be to really make them pay.
“Fair play to Old Albanian, they defended well; they filled the field with 14 and kept their full-back well back.
“It took us too long to realise it and do something about it.”
Stewart joined Fylde in 2011 and has been a cornerstone of the pack since then.
He has made more than 130 appearances, scoring in excess of 60 tries.
It was while at the Woodlands that he met his future wife Megan, the club physiotherapist, who recently gave birth to their son Ethan.
Stewart will miss the closing match of the season away to Birmingham-Moseley, but will be available for two matches, tomorrow’s trip to the North East and the final home match against Loughborough Students on April 22.
The Fylde wing forward said: “I have two games left and the last will be Loughborough, which is quite a nice way to finish with them being one of my former teams when I came over to England (from Northern Ireland).
“Hopefully, I will finish on a high.”
Reflecting on his time at the Woodlands, Stewart added: “I have loved my team here, the people, the management, coaches, players
“I am quite sad to move on, but there are family reasons and it’s the right time to step up my coaching.”
Stewart works at Lancaster Royal Grammar School and with Vale Of Lune on his doorstep it is the perfect fit for him to move to that club.
He said: “I will be a coach/player rather than a player/coach because I won’t be available to play all of the time because of my work at the school.
“The majority of time I will be coaching, but when I am available, I will play as I have been doing here at Fylde.”
Stewart has already been preparing for his time at Vale, while at the same time very much keeping his eye on the ball for the job in hand at Fylde.
He said: “I have been down to Vale three or four times so far. I went to the Leigh game to watch them, but it was called off because of a flooded pitch for the second time, so I haven’t actually seen them play live, but I have watched a lot of their videos.
“I am quite excited to get up there and put my stamp on things.
“Dan Williams is the head coach up there. He is going to look after attack and the backs, and I will be looking after the defence and the forwards
“Hopefully with the new executive Vale have put in place – the director of rugby, Paul Dorrington, and Dan and myself – we are quite hopeful that we will be able to build.”
Stewart added: “We have not put any set targets of where we want to get to and when, but we want to become more successful and pull in some of that local talent that drifts away from Lancaster area and really get them to want to play for the club.
“What Vale have sold to me as a vision is something that I am quite excited about being involved in and being a part of.”
Stewart has always given 100 per cent commitment during his time at Fylde and it goes without saying that will apply for his swansong appearances.
He said: “I told the people at Fylde early that I was going and I would not be in their plans for next year.
“Out of respect for the club, I didn’t want to leave it to the end of the season and drift off.
“I wanted them to know up frond and I didn’t want them to get to know second or third hand. I always said you would get the absolute maximum out of me until I finished, right up until the last minute.”