THERE must be something in the water at Falkirk RFC that keeps people coming back.
“We had a French side over – US Dole – a season and a half ago, and Finn (Russell) just turned up. He’d played for us for a season a few years after I’d retired. They thought I’d organised it, but Finn must have seen it on our Facebook page and he just turned up out of the blue on a Saturday. Totally unannounced, he’ll just rock up.”
At the club whose motto is ‘Keeping Rugby Central’, another returnee is club president Bill Faulds, who shared this anecdote about Scottish rugby’s enfant terrible.
“My first season (as a player) I was studying in Edinburgh. I met the guys on a stag night in ’85. I didn’t play rugby back then, but I got coaxed down for some fitness. Before I knew it I was playing for Falkirk,” he recalls.
“I loved the club, loved the people. Genuinely, when I started work as a chemical engineer I restricted my applications to companies where I could live in Falkirk. I’m not from Falkirk, but I played most of my rugby here. It’s my club, I guess.”
After a sojourn down south, Faulds was back in the second-row for the glory years of 2003-08, and he took the helm as President in the summer of 2018, as the club toiled.
“The committee was down to four people and the committee meetings were about which bill to pay,” he explains. “We had five-figure debt when I took over. It got to the stage of: ‘Is the club viable’? But we got sponsors on board, we’ve now got a guy looking after the sponsorship and he’s very, very good at it. We did a bunch of other things, like dinners and the beer festival, so now we’re debt free.”
With finances taken care of, Faulds set out to recreate the atmosphere which had kept him coming back. In his introductory letter to supporters and members, written in bold, the words: “Ultimately, it’s ALL about making people feel good about themselves”. A sentiment he echoes when we speak.
“If you provide the right environment, for example our minis are vibrant just now, because the coaches there, the mums and dads, have created a great atmosphere, and a great ethos, so kids stick. Players, coaches, sponsors; people wouldn’t come down if you didn’t make them feel good about themselves.
“Player retention is a huge thing. There’s usually a fall-off ages 16 to 18, but we’ve kept most of those kids, and genuinely I do see progression. We’re starting to pick up losing bonuses, we’re starting to pick up try bonuses, the boys are becoming more dogged.”
Having finished eighth in National League Two last season, Falkirk are again struggling towards the foot of the table this time round, but both Faulds and head coach Stevie Leckie, a relatively new face at the club having joined last summer, are in agreement that man-management is key to getting the best out of the youthful side.
“I’ve inherited an incredible group of young men. We’re sitting in the league where we thought we would be, but we’ve only really played badly once, through at Dumfries,” says Leckie. “I pride myself on getting to know every individual. To get more out of people, we really need to get to know one another. We’re always stronger together.
“You’ll get players coming back if you look after them, you’ll get committee men if you look after them through their journey as players.”
Fighting to stay up
This Saturday, they’ll face off against the side currently one place above them in the table, Gordonians, however they do have four games in hand due to postponements which will see their season extend into May. Their final fixture will be a rearranged visit to bottom of the table Whitecraigs (who also have games in hand), and both men still believe they have what it takes to secure safety.
“We’re troubling most sides, ” said Faulds. “You’d say for most games, at the 60-70min mark, Falkirk have been in it. We’re getting try-bonuses, we’re getting losing bonuses, we’re not giving away silly penalties; it’ll come.
“At the start of the season I’d have hoped we’d be further up the table. Now it’s up to us to see the season through. We say to the boys ‘don’t look at the league, don’t look at who you’re playing, focus on what you’re good at. Go through our processes and the outcome will be what it is’.”
“You could always do with a wee bit of luck, bounce of a ball, referee’s decision, but ultimately you can take control of it. You only need one to stick to change the game. Believe in what your doing, believe in your philosophy, believe in the processes,” adds Leckie.
“It’s an incredible club. There’s gentlemen who look after the pitch for free, and what a job they do. Every Wednesday, they’re here looking after the pitch. How many people wake up in the morning and think ‘I’ll go look after that pitch for those young men’. It’s incredible. You can’t put a price on that.”
Bill Faulds’ Five for Fun –
Favourite Movie? Gladiator
Tea or coffee? Coffee
Twirl or Flake? Twirl
What you drinking? Pint of Tennent’s
Walk on music for boxing or MMA bout? Simply The Best (“But I doubt I’d be able to live up to it”)