Walder sacked by Falcons, but is there more to it than just bad results?

2M4YGGC Newcastle, UK. 17th Dec, 2022. Falcons Head Coach, Dave Walder is pictured before the Gallagher Premiership match between Newcastle Falcons and Sale Sharks at Kingston Park, Newcastle on Friday 23rd December 2022. (Credit: Chris Lishman | MI New) Credit: MI News & Sport /Alamy Live News

Sitting joint bottom of the Gallagher Premiership, Newcastle Falcons have confirmed the departure of Head Coach Dave Walder, after less than a year in charge of the Tyneside club. And chairman of the Falcons Rugby Committee Matt Thompson has admitted its time for “a bit of a reset across the board”.

But many questions have been raised by fans as to whether any deeper reasons had a part to play in Walder’s departure, including his relationship with the club’s rugby committee, that was also only formed this year.

After longstanding Director of Rugby Dean Richards departed the club at the end of the 2021/22 season, Walder, who had made 110 appearances as a player for the Falcons and had been part of the coaching set up alongside Richards since 2014, took the reins.

Things had been looking promising for the Falcons. They’ve managed to recruit some exciting prospects, and players like Mateo Carreras have been outstanding this season – the Argentine currently sitting top of the try scoring charts on 12. Despite some extremely strong performances which have included victories against playoff-chasing contingent Exeter Chiefs, Gloucester and Sale Sharks, the Falcons find themselves joint bottom of the table. They exited the European Challenge Cup with a whimper after losing their opening three group stage games, and have not won a league game since early January where they swept aside a struggling Leicester Tigers.

Announcing the stalwart’s departure, Falcons’ Matt Thompson, who leads the rugby committee, said:

“Realistically we haven’t been where we want to be for a few years now and as a club we recognise the need to make changes to our approach to achieve our goals. Transitional periods like this are never easy, and unfortunately we are going to lose some people along the way. 

“A lot has happened, particularly this year, both across the sport and on and off the field at the club, and we need a bit of a reset across the board. 

“Our aim is to be a sustainable club that is here for years to come and in line with that it’s important that we invest in the right areas, in the right way at the right time. We want to entertain our supporters and play an exciting brand of rugby, which also means having the right players and coaching personnel in place to take us forward, and that is part of our ongoing recruitment strategy.”

The decision to release Walder from his duties comes at a turbulent time for the club, who have already lost various star players to other Gallagher Premiership clubs.

Prolific try-scoring hooker George McGuigan departed for Gloucester earlier in the season, with popular prop Trevor Davison moving to Northampton Saints just two days before Walder’s sacking. Fans’ favourite Gary Graham has also announced he will be departing at the end of season, and despite Falcons bringing in Oisin Heffernan and Corbin Thunder, there is an evident trend of talent departing the club.

In July, when Walder was appointed, the three-man rugby committee was also formed, chaired by Thompson and also including owner Semore Kurdi and ex-chairman Dave Thompson.

A statement by the club following that announcement back in July explained: “The new group will allow the coaching team to concentrate their full attention on preparing the squad, with Matt Thompson leading on off-field matters including recruitment, retention and infrastructure around the rugby department.”

Fans and ex-players including Tom May, who made over 250 appearances for the club, have had their say online, with many feeling that there is more to Walder’s exit than purely bad results.

The Falcons have four games left to see out the current season, with coach Mark Laycock taking the team on until a replacement is found.