Abu Dhabi Quins pay tribute to “true rugby legend” Mike McFarlane as coach departs

Matt Jones - Editor 15:47 18/01/2019
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Mike McFarlane (r) celebrates winning the UAE Premiership, Quins' fifth and final trophy of a stunning 2016/17, with brothers Sam (c) and Ben Bolger.

Abu Dhabi Harlequins have lauded Mike McFarlane as a “true rugby legend” after his departure from the capital city club was confirmed.

The Englishman – a former Quins player – is believed to have stepped down from his role for family reasons.

He took over the Zayed Sports City club in the summer of 2015 after New Zealand former Munster and Newcastle Falcons full-back Jeremy Manning departed.

A meticulous tactician and relentless pursuer of perfection, McFarlane oversaw Quins’ rise back to prominence in UAE rugby and memorably steered the club to a clean sweep of major trophies in the 2016/17 season.

The quintuple three seasons ago included lifting the West Asia Premiership, West Asia Cup, UAE Premiership, Dubai Sevens and Asia Rugby Western Clubs Champions League titles, after which McFarlane revealed he had considered leaving for the second time, having first entertained the thought in the summer of 2016.

Mike McFarlane was named UAE Rugby Coach of the Year in 2016/17.

Mike McFarlane was named UAE Rugby Coach of the Year in 2016/17.

Despite a raft of player departures and the bitter loss of talismanic captain Ben Bolger due to forced retirement on the eve of last season, Quins remained competitive but lost four of the five trophies from their quintuple season.

Quins paid warm tribute to McFarlane in a statement released on Friday, saying: “Farewell to our head coach Michael McFarlane, a true rugby legend.

“The committee would like to thank Mike for his role within the club and wishes him every success in his new endeavours. We would like to thank his family, Mandy and Madison, for their patience and understanding whilst he fulfilled the head coach role.

“Mike was appointed senior men’s head coach at Quins for the 2015/16 season. Since his appointment our teams have won the UAE Premiership, the Conference and Community League’s, the West Asia Cup and Premiership, the West Asia Club Championship, the Dubai 7’s and Eden Park 7’s.

“The 2016/17 season was his most successful with a clean sweep of all competitions for the first team with the second team also winning the league.”

It was feared Quins would struggle this season with another wave of player exits, but McFarlane has led them to second in the West Asia Premiership – they and leaders Bahrain are way out in front of their rivals – although they were defeated 24-14 in the Dubai Sevens final by Dubai Hurricanes.

Quins chairman Andy Cole added: “Mike leaves us part way through the 2018/19 season but he leaves us in very good shape, topping the UAE Premiership by a significant points lead and just behind Bahrain in the West Asia competition, and I know the players are motivated to finish the season strong for Mike.

Mike McFarlane (r) and Dubai Exiles coach Jacques Benade worked together for the UAE under Apollo Perelini last May. Pic courtesy of Alex Johnson (www.yallarugby.com).

Mike McFarlane (r) and Dubai Exiles coach Jacques Benade worked together for the UAE under Apollo Perelini last May. Pic courtesy of Alex Johnson (www.yallarugby.com).

“Mike was a true ambassador for Abu Dhabi Harlequins at all levels and upheld the club’s “one club” ethos. From mini and youth, to ladies and senior men he supported all areas.

“He was recognised last season for going above and beyond his remit by being awarded the chairmen’s special recognition award. Mike has certainly raised the bar for coaches across the region and will be truly missed on and off the pitch. We wish Mike and his family well for the future.”

McFarlane revealed on the eve of the 2018/19 season that he had once again intended to step down in the summer, but was persuaded by the club to remain at the helm for one more season.

“The boys are incredibly persuasive,” he joked last June, after he and the club stated he would lead Quins for a fourth campaign.

Quins and Bahrain were due to meet at Zayed Sports City for a top of the table Premiership clash at the time of writing on Friday.

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