Walder upbeat as pre-season gets underway

Tuesday 12 July 2022 Written by: Adam

“It’s a really exciting time for the club, and the start of pre-season training feels like a big moment,” said the former England fly-half, who was a two-time Cup winner as a player with the Falcons.

“We’ve got new faces on the coaching team, in the playing squad and behind the scenes, and everyone’s just really excited about what’s going on.”

Walder takes charge of a coaching group which sees the addition of club legend Mark Wilson, explaining: “Wils has come on board, which is great for us.

“Fundamentally he is responsible for the contact and collision areas of the game, both in attack and defence, but he will lead on areas of the defence. I’ll oversee parts of the defence myself, helping Mark as best I can, but it’s great to see the energy and enthusiasm he is bringing to the role. So between Wils and I we will look after the defence – my own role being more around the system, with Wils driving the emotional and technical side of it.

“Mark Laycock will also change roles to focus more on our attack, which we’re excited about. We’ve spent a lot of time chatting, analysing things and really taking a proper look at how we can set up an attack which best suits our players.

“We need to play a brand of rugby which is attractive to watch and is exciting for supporters, and the key is to balance entertainment with having a winning style of rugby.

“People in the North East in my experience come to sport to be entertained, and we have a duty to deliver that, but we also have a duty to win games of rugby. My job is to set us up to play in a way which suits our players, which is enjoyable to watch and to play, and ultimately gets us results.”

In addition, a three-man rugby committee has been formed, chaired by former Falcons hooker Matt Thompson and also including Semore Kurdi and Dave Thompson. The new group will allow the coaching team to concentrate their full attention on preparing the squad, with Matt Thompson leading on off-field matters including recruitment, retention and infrastructure around the rugby department.

Walder said: “It’s great that the committee is in place because it allows me to channel my time on getting the squad right, which is ultimately why I’m here.”

Having overseen a day which included meetings, gym sessions and rugby training, he added: “Day one of pre-season is just about setting the scene and the tone for the year ahead.

“Some of that will be laying out the parameters of what I think is important in terms of the culture we’re trying to create, and the guidelines around how I see us getting to the end-point of where we want to be. It’s very easy to come in and say all the right things, but it’s about putting in place a framework which outlines how we’re going to do it. By the time the season comes around everyone will be on the same page, on the pitch and off it, and the response so far has been really good.

“Pre-seasons seem to get shorter and shorter, and we have an eight-week pre-season this year, which is the shortest we’ve had since I got back involved with the club. We’re very keen to get underway, but it’s a balance between giving the players the information they need and being able to get out and practice it on the field.

“We like to get the rugby balls out early doors, and the way we structure it is to have them in for four weeks then away for one. By the end of that fourth week we should have put our principles in place and be fully underway in working on those processes, aiming to start the season strongly.”

Walder added: “With it being such a short pre-season we’ve had to be really focused as a coaching group in working out what is important to get across to the lads, and how we get it across to them. It’s very easy to say ‘these are all the things we want to cover’, but they’re not going to take it all on if we don’t get it right.

“It’s exciting, though, and there’s a lot of positivity around the place. The players have come back in good shape, they’re looking forward to getting going again and they’re responding well to the changes we’ve made.”

Looking to learn the lessons from previous years, the head coach said: “We’ve started well the last couple of seasons, partly because we’ve spent a lot of time together in pre-season. I think last season we were guilty of going a bit too deep into the season before we made changes as a coaching group, because we’d been winning games and had the momentum. I think we got that balance slightly wrong if we’re honest about it, and once we started losing the odd game it then became harder to get that momentum back. Some of the factors were out of our hands due to Covid and the like, but there were also steps we could have taken upon reflection to keep things going after the fast start we’d made.

“We also want to engage more with our supporters, and with things like community visits getting going again after the relaxation of some of the rules around Covid, I’d expect to see a lot more of our players out and about at local clubs, schools and all the rest of it.

“Around game day I want our lads to be a lot more accessible to supporters, and then just simple things like how we communicate through the press and on our own website and social media. It’s early days on that side and those plans will evolve as the year goes on, but it’s just having that re-connection with our supporters which I think is so important.

“A rocking Kingston Park on match day is a great place to be, and getting more people through the door because they feel that affinity with the club – that’s where we want to get to.

“We’re all here for the same reason – to win games of rugby and have a successful club – and a lot goes into that, from the players, the rugby staff, the commercial guys at the club and of course our supporters.

“If we want them to be there for us then we’ve got to be there for them, and hopefully during pre-season we can start to put those wheels in motion.”

**FIRST TEAM SQUAD 2022-23**

**FORWARDS:** Jamie Blamire, Adam Brocklebank, Conrad Cade, Callum Chick, Connor Collett, Matthew Dalton, Trevor Davison, Sebastian de Chaves, Carl Fearns, Gary Graham, Conor Kenny, Freddie Lockwood, Charlie Maddison, Tom Marshall, George McGuigan, George Merrick, Logovi’i Mulipola, Richard Palframan, Josh Peters, Greg Peterson, Sean Robinson, Mark Tampin, Philip van der Walt, Will Welch.

**BACKS:** Josh Barton, Mateo Carreras, Brett Connon, Nathan Earle, Pete Lucock, Matias Moroni, Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti, Matias Orlando, Tom Penny, Vereimi Qorowale, Adam Radwan, Tian Schoeman, Iwan Stephens, Ben Stevenson, Sam Stuart, Alex Tait, Josh Thomas, George Wacokecoke, Michael Young.

**SENIOR ACADEMY:** James Blackett, Phil Brantingham, Jeremy Civil, Luke Coulston, Matt Deehan, Mark Dormer, Ben Douglas, Ollie Fletcher, Ewan Greenlaw, Nathan Greenwood, Louie Johnson, Zach Kerr, Chidera Obonna, Guy Pepper, Mike Rewcastle, Charlie Smith, Marcus Tiffen.

Season ticket memberships are on sale now by [**clicking here.**][1]

[1]: https://www.eticketing.co.uk/newcastle-falcons/EDP/Season/Index/1702?returnUrl=/newcastle-falcons/Seasons/Seasons