Sharjah Wanderers announce their shock withdrawal from 2018/19 UAE Conference

Matt Jones - Editor 20:14 12/09/2018
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Sharjah players celebrate their UAE Conference success in 2015/16.

The rise and fall nature of the UAE rugby landscape has continued with Sharjah Wanderers announcing their withdrawal from the UAE Conference.

The club – one of the Emirates’ oldest who established roots in the late 1970s – announced via their Twitter and Instagram accounts on Wednesday that they had taken the “tough call” with a little over a week to go until the start of the 2018/19 season.

It’s a sad state of affairs for a club that celebrated their 40th anniversary in 2017, with chairman Shane Breen revealing the club had lost half of its players from last season over the summer.

Their withdrawal follows Dubai Wasps’ decision to fold on the eve of the 2017/18 season.

Wanderers returned to pre-season training on August 28 and had been scheduled to kick off the new term at home to Dubai Sharks next Friday, September 21.

But they will now drop out, in the hope of being able to rebuild and return next year.

“It’s not been the best day,” admitted a distraught Breen, a Northern Irishman who was born in the UAE and spent his whole life at the club.

“It was a really tough call to make but we had to be honest with ourselves. At the end of last season, we lost over half the squad, mostly due to guys relocating or taking some time away from to focus on other things.

“Every season we would typically see 10-15 new guys joining up but that’s just not happened this year. We’ve had some new boys come along but unfortunately not enough.

“Unfortunately, the Community League wasn’t an option for us either.”

Despite making the call, Breen insists Wanderers will hope to regroup next season and he said the club’s other thriving teams will continue to flourish. The famous red and black of Wanderers will still make appearances at the Dubai Sevens and various other tournaments throughout the campaign.

“The boys are all still committed Wanderers and we’ll do our best to rebuild this year and be back next season,” said a defiant Breen.

“Our ladies are still going strong though and the men’s team as well as the vets and ladies will be in the sevens this year which will be our focus for the next few months.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Wanderers released statements across their social media platforms announcing the news.

“SWRFC are sad to announce that the Men’s XV have had to make the heartbreaking decision to withdraw from this years’ UAE Conference,” read the statement.

Wanderers celebrate their incredible 2015/16 campaign.

Wanderers celebrate their incredible 2015/16 campaign.

“Declining player numbers have taken its toll on the team and the squad no longer has the numbers to compete in this year’s competition.

“We’d like to thank all our members and sponsors for their continued support as we look to stage our comeback next season. This isn’t the last you’ll see of the Wandies men’s team who’ll still be competing in the Dubai Sevens and other social competitions throughout the year.”

Wanderers have been around for almost as long as the UAE has been an independent nation – with only Dubai Exiles and Abu Dhabi Bats (now Harlequins) older.

The club has enjoyed much success in recent years too. Nic Walters led the club to a thrilling UAE Conference title win two years ago – beating Jebel Ali Dragons 2nds in the final play of the game of the 2015/16 final.

After deciding against promotion to the top-flight of UAE rugby, Sharjah struggled a year later before returning to prominence last season as they reached the Conference final yet again, this time on the losing side of some late drama as Dubai Tigers’ sudden death try earned a 25-20 win.

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