Bahrain keep it in-house as Adam Wallace and Lindsey Gibson replace Louie Tonkin

Matt Jones 10/07/2019
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Adam Wallace (3rd l) and Lindsay Gibson (2nd r) are the new men at the Bahrain helm. (Photo credit: www.jodiebakerphotography.com).

Bahrain have begun the post-Louie Tonkin era by naming two of his closest allies as the men to take the west Asia champions forward.

Captain and long-serving player Adam Wallace has been named the club’s head coach, while hooker Lindsey Gibson – another club stalwart – is the new assistant and forwards coach.

Tom Hanratty will continue in his role as the team manager and Alana McConalogue will come on board as strength and conditioning coach.

“Following a rigorous recruitment process which saw 12 candidates with a wide variety of experience in coaching considered, we are pleased to announce the appointment of Adam Wallace as our new first team coach,” the club announced via its social media channels on Tuesday.

“In the last three years Adam has made an enormous impact as first team captain and as assistant coach to Louie Tonkin. Adam will be supported by Lindsey Gibson, who will also take on many of Louie’s other responsibilities in the sports department for the club.

“Tom Hanratty will continue in his invaluable supporting role as team manager and Alana McConalogue will join as strength and conditioning coach.”

Louie Tonkin led Bahrain to four trophies in his three years.

Louie Tonkin (back row far l) led Bahrain to four trophies in his three years.

The club had been in the process of scouting for a new coach after Tonkin left his role following a momentous three years in which he had transformed the club from Gulf rugby also-rans to titans of the region.

He led Bahrain to the West Asia Premiership and West Asia Cup double this term – their third and fourth trophies in his three-year spell. Prior to a maiden West Asia Cup success of 2017/18, Bahrain had gone eight years without lifting a piece of silverware.

Tonkin’s tenure – he returned home and started a new role with Exeter Chiefs’ academy last week – was bookended by the double, leading Bahrain to a dominant 2018/19 campaign in which they lost just one of 17 games.

And he has endorsed his replacements. “It’s really exciting to see the club invest in these great young people, all with bright futures in coaching and management,” said Tonkin in a statement released by the club.

“Adam is the right man to take rugby forward in this club. He’s been coaching with me for the last three years and will ensure a seamless transition.

“He is already a distinguished leader among the players’ group, he has a huge future in coaching; this will be a great step for his development and the team.”

[inlinescript1

In regards to the coaching team as a whole, the Welshman added: “For any coach to be successful, a strong support team is essential. Getting the right balance of professionalism and trust is important.

“Tom, Lindsey and Alana already have great relationships with each other and with Adam. Each will bring professionalism to the team in their own unique way.”

The new Gulf rugby season will kick off in September with the Western Clubs Champions League competition taking place between reigning champions Bahrain, as well as UAE Premiership champion Abu Dhabi Harlequins and Sri Lanka’s Kandy.

Most popular

Related Sections

Deep love and community spirit driving Sharjah Wanderers' resurgence

Matt Jones 9/07/2019
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Wanderers players celebrate their UAE Conference triumph in 2015/16.

Returning from a 12-month exile proves there is a deep sense of community spirit and passion coursing through the veins of people associated with Sharjah Wanderers.

That is the message being delivered by new chairman Chris Paton, one of the club’s most senior players, who admits Wanderers will always hold a special place in his heart.

Paton has played for a club located in the shadow of the giant that has become Dubai – but one that has been around for longer than all but one of the city’s myriad other teams – for a decade.

At least it would have been a decade had Wanderers not decided to pull their senior men’s team out of competition on the eve of the 2018/19 season due to dwindling player numbers.

They hoped, however, it would only be temporary. And the good news that Sharjah would be back for 2019/20 was announced via the club’s Instagram account less than two weeks ago.

“When I came over I planned to only stay for two years and I’m still here. The club’s a big part of that and the friends that have come with it,” admitted 32-year-old Paton, who will replace long-serving Shane Breen as chairman.

“It’s been quite a journey but it’s been great fun and I can’t wait to carry it on.”

Influential No8 Isaac Porter is heading back to Sharjah.

Influential No8 Isaac Porter is heading back to Sharjah.

If it wasn’t obvious already, the Dubai Knights Eagles merger between Dubai Eagles and Arabian Knights, announced at the end of last month, proves survival is a big issue for many UAE rugby clubs.

It always has been for an amateur sport built on expatriate players whose sporting passion nevertheless comes second to the main reason they’re here in the Emirates – employment.

But Paton believes there is something special about Sharjah, one of the UAE’s oldest clubs, who were established in 1977 – only Dubai Exiles and Abu Dhabi Harlequins are older.

“There’s definitely a big community spirit at the club,” added Paton, the back rower who still envisions being required on as well as off the field next season.

“The fact everyone makes the effort to train wherever we can and play under the circumstances – playing in all sorts of positions and guys coming from the vets – proves that.

“You can tell how people feel about the club just by how relatively quick and easy this has been to get back together. We’ve got a lot of guys involved already, who love the club and want to help get it back to where it belongs.”

Where Sharjah feel they belong is in the UAE’s second tier Conference, a division they were crowned champions of just four seasons ago, while they reached the final again in 2017/18, losing to Dubai Tigers.

They will most likely be reinstated to the Conference although Paton admits he is still waiting for concrete confirmation off the UAE Rugby Federation.

Long term, the club has ambitions to be challenging for titles again, although Wanderers are keeping their aims a little lower in the short term.

“If we can get a decent 22 out on the first day that will be a win in itself,” admitted Paton.

“But a lot of our drive is we used to be one of the teams competing for the Conference each year and I think we’d like to be doing that again. But we’re realistic, it’s not necessarily going to be straight back in at the top. We’ll see what state we’re in when we get back in August.”

Pre-season will start on August 27, taking place on Tuesday evenings from 7.30pm at King’s School Al Barsha, coinciding with the return of many people from their summer holidays.

Paton revealed former Sharjah star Isaac Porter is returning to the club after spending 2018/19 with Eagles, a campaign which ended with international recognition. The Irishman was part of Apollo Perelini’s UAE side that earned promotion back to Asia Rugby’s Division I after victories over Guam and Thailand.

He will be returning to Sharjah from Eagles along with Shane Fowley and Paddy Barcoe.

“Isaac tapped me up, he’s been one of the driving forces behind getting the club back together, it hit everyone pretty hard last year,” added Paton.

“It’s all turned around though and everyone’s mad keen to get back up and running again. Everyone, bar one or two who were here previously, are back involved and there’s a few who’ve moved clubs who are sticking with those clubs, and that’s fine.

“But we’ve got five or six new players which is a good start, hopefully we get a few more. Isacc was keen to be back involved even though he’s missing the first half of the season through injury.”

Most popular

Related Sections

Great news for UAE rugby as Sharjah Wanderers announce a return to action in 2019/20

Matt Jones 2/07/2019
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Wanderers players celebrate their 2016 UAE Conference triumph.

One of the UAE’s most popular and oldest rugby clubs will make a welcome return to action next season after 12 months away.

Sharjah Wanderers’ men’s team will be back in action for 2019/20 after taking a 12-month hiatus on the eve of the 2018/19 season due to player departures. Club chairman at the time, Shane Breen, revealed Wanderers had lost half of their players from the previous season over the summer of 2018, leaving them with a tough decision to make.

But, as had been the case with the news delivered a year ago, the club announced via their Instagram account on Thursday that their men’s team is returning and recruiting for the upcoming campaign, with pre-season training starting on August 27, taking place on Tuesday evenings from 7.30pm at King’s School Al Barsha.

Chris Paton has replaced Sharjah-born Breen as chairman, while a new committee will also be in place to steer the club forward.

But Breen revealed he will still be around to offer any advice if needed.

“A few of the lads are working to start the men’s team back up gain. I’ve stepped down as chairman and there’s a fresh committee who will be great for the club and they’ll try to get things back to where they used to be,” said 33-year-old Breen, who first turned out for the club aged six.

The Northern Irishman, who is himself taking a break this season as he and his wife, Ciara, are expecting their first child in August, added: “I might join the boys in a playing capacity later on in the season but for now I’m just giving the new committee advice when they ask for it.

“Chris has been very proactive so far in trying to get things going again. The club needed some fresh input and hopefully it goes well.”

Wanderers are one of the Emirates’ oldest clubs, established in 1977, and they celebrated their 40th anniversary in 2017.

Only Dubai Exiles and Abu Dhabi Bats (now Harlequins) have been around longer. Quins came into being in 1974 while Exiles were the first club to be created in the UAE, in 1966.

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

After deciding against promotion to the top-flight of UAE rugby, Sharjah struggled a year later before returning to prominence in 2017/18 as they reached the Conference final yet again, this time on the losing side as Dubai Tigers’ sudden death try earned a 25-20 win.

Wanderers had continued to thrive in other departments even as their men’s side took a break last season, with their women’s rugby team, as well as the club’s thriving gaelic sports sides, continuing to compete. They had also continued to enter men’s and vets sides at the Dubai Rugby Sevens as well as other sevens and 10s tournaments throughout the season.

Most popular