Two quit Fylde as Stewart signs on
Experienced duo Chris Johnson and Gareth Rawlings are leaving Fylde rugby club to step down a level to play for Sale FC from next season.
They made their farewell appearances at the Woodlands Memorial Ground on Saturday, playing for Lancashire in the 36-10 County Championship win over Eastern Counties.
On a weekend when Evan Stewart agreed a stay at Fylde for a further two years, it was announced that prolific kicker Johnson was going just 10 points short of the 1,000 mark for Fylde - Rawlings is to join National Two (North) club Sale as a player-coach.
Johnson, an England Counties cap and skipper, joined the Ansdell club in 2012, making 111 appearances and scoring 990 points.
Rawlings, three years older than Johnson at 32, moved to Fylde in 2011, the first of two spells there. He made 71 appearances and was vice-captain in the recently concluded National League One campaign.
Player-coach Paul Arnold said: “Both have made major contributions to Fylde’s development in National One.
“Gareth lives and works in the Potteries and the journey up and down the M6 hasn’t been easy.
“Chris lives in Leeds and works in Manchester and has also travelled serious mileage to play for us for four seasons.
“They have demanding jobs and have growing families and playing at Heywood Road will be much, much easier for them.
“Gareth has been offered a playing/coaching role and he is very keen to take this excellent opportunity.”
Wishing the pair well for the future, Arnold added: “We look forward to a new wave of young, local players breaking through to take their places.”
“The great majority of the existing squad have re-signed for 2016/7.
“We are very active in the recruitment market currently and will be announcing the arrival of some major new players in the near future.”
The role of Lancashire captain Stewart is to be expanded.
He is joining the coaching team as specailist breakdown coach.
The former Fylde skipper explained: “With more and more emphasis being put on quick ball in the modern game, the breakdown is a crucial area and having done some work with the players this year and really enjoying it I am very much looking forward to making the role official.
“Getting it right can be the difference between winning and losing and if I can help add some expertise to the coaching team then that’s great.
“I’m not getting any younger so I see this as a good stepping stone into senior coaching.
“I will mainly be focusing on my playing responsibilities as that comes first but coaching is something that really excites me.”