Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Free-Flowing Falcons Are Rediscovering Fun Factor

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Free-Flowing Falcons Are Rediscovering Fun Factor

Article excerpt

ISN'T it nice to enjoy watching Newcastle Falcons again.

Almost irrespective of their recent upturn in results, the re-emergence of the fun factor in going to Kingston Park is central to everything the club are trying to do at the moment.

For too many years it has been little more than a foreboding sense of duty that has dragged many Falcons fans into the stadium to watch risk-averse rugby, where avoiding relegation seemed the only goal.

We can spend hours debating causes including a bog of a pitch, low budgets and all the rest of it, but the truth of the matter is that it was often a chore just to turn up.

Even without major surgery to his squad Dean Richards and his coaching team have changed all that, playing with an intent to seek and exploit space via a quick and ambitious offloading game.

It is not sevens rugby and there is still an appropriate degree of boot on ball, but Dave Walder hit the nail on the head when I talked to him over the summer.

"We are in the entertainment business," said the newly-arrived attack coach.

"People in London might go to the theatre or the opera for their leisure, but in the North East they look to their football and rugby teams to entertain them."

It was nail-on-the-head stuff from a man whose remit when he joined this year was to get Newcastle scoring tries again, and the public are gradually pricking up their ears at the increased buzz about the Falcons.

Their December 27 visit of Saracens is already a season-high crowd even if no more tickets are sold between now and kick-off.

Festive bonhomie aside the gates for their run-of-the-mill league games are nudging upwards, Richards' side benefiting from their new plastic pitch and a commitment to play an attacking game.

Mention any of this to the director of rugby and he points out a few facts.

Rightly so, in fairness. Often typecast as a dour proprietor of forward-oriented fodder, the former England and Lions great will counter with the fact that his Leicester side were consistently the top try-scorers in the Premiership, and that Harlequins' free-flowing style was largely of his invention. …

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