ED. This is the final edition of Matt Ferguson's excellent five-part series detailing the members of last season's Sale Jets side.
This week I’ll be taking a look at the final cohort of players to have appeared for the Jets last season. I’ve focused less on each individual player this week, mainly because there really isn’t that much information out there about these guys. Rugby outside the top four leagues is very poorly recorded and reported, and as such it’s hard to make accurate assessments of the players without turning up to every regional league game!
JAMES BAILEY – WING/CENTRE – 20
Bailey is a recent signing at Fylde, having been part of their set-up last season. He made his first-team debut in their 2015 pre-season, but didn’t appear again for the first team. He combined his second-team commitments with his university studies, and as he has now graduated he has signed full-time for Fylde’s first team.
Bailey was previously the top try-scorer for Southport, winning that honour in two consecutive seasons with a staggering number of tries (60+ over two seasons), leading to Fylde snapping him up. He has appeared for Sale Sharks’ Jets side against Northampton Wanderers last season, and also represented Lancashire under 20s.
CIARAN CONNOLLY – WING/FULLBACK – 23
Connolly is a Sale FC stalwart, having played at the club since 2011, and playing throughout their 2015/16 National League 3 (North) promotion campaign. Comfortable at wing or fullback, last season he made 17 starts and 5 appearances off the bench, scoring 4 tries over the season. He also played for the Jets against Northampton Wanderers.
RALPH DOWDS – CENTRE – 22
Another Fylde back, Dowds had a stop-start 2015/16 season, making 13 appearances and 6 bench appearances. Making all his starts at outside centre, he was unfortunately unable to cement his place in the first team as Fylde finished in mid-table in National League One. Previously with Myerscough College and Loughborough University, he played for the Jets against Leicester A last season.
HENRY HADFIELD – WING – 20(ish)
Hadfield is an experienced operator within the county set-up, having played for England Colleges while at Myerscough and having turned out for both Lancashire and North under 20s last season. He also made 6 appearances (4 starts) for National League Two (North) outfit Tynedale as they finished in mid-table. He was previously in the Salford Rugby League academy, having been talent spotted while playing union at age grade level. He appeared for the Jets against Newcastle A.
RORY HARDMAN – FULLBACK/WING – 20
The first of the players in this report to be competing in BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) level rugby, Hardman plays for Durham University. He was a BUCS Sevens finalist with Durham last season, scoring in the final as Cardiff Met took the title. For the Jets, he made a bench appearance against Newcastle A.
LUKE HARRIS – SECOND ROW – 21(ish)
A former number 8 for Wirral Grammar, Harris has been captain of the Leeds University rugby team in his newer role as a second row. I can’t find much information about Harris’ playing career aside from these titbits, but he did appear for the Jets against Newcastle A, also popping up on the bench.
JOHNNY MATTHEWS – HOOKER – 23
Of all the players in this report, Matthews has almost certainly played at the highest level. After having represented England Counties in 2014, following a stunning season for Sedgley Park (17 tries in 25 games), he signed for Championship side Rotherham Titans. Unfortunately for Matthews, he was unable to break into the first-team picture, and re-signed for Sedgley Park for the 2015/16 season having made 6 appearances for the Titans over his 2 years there. He went straight back into his old starting spot at Sedgley Park, scoring 10 tries from 23 starts, and making 3 appearances off the bench. For the Jets, he started their final game against Northampton Wanderers, worthy reward for a great season back at National League Two (North) level.
JAKE SQUIRRELL – SCRUMHALF – 20
Squirrell is the second Durham University player to be mentioned in this report, and the third in total (Diogo Ferreira appearing back in Week 1). Another product of the Myerscough Academy, he is another to have represented Lancashire under 20s last season. Also turning out occasionally for Vale of Lune in the National League Three (North), he started on the bench for the Jets’ fixture against Northampton Wanderers.
KYLE THOMAS – BACK ROW – 20(ish)
Thomas, being the final player in the report, is the one who I have had most difficulty finding information about. The only things I can find is that he is a back row, he played for Northumbria under 20s last season, and he was another to appear for the Jets against Newcastle A. For both of our sakes I hope he’ll receive more attention for his rugby performances in seasons to come.
I’m fairly sure I haven’t missed anyone out, and therefore those are all the Jets representatives from the last season who are not currently in the first-team squad. I’ll continue to keep an eye out for Jets on loan next season, and hopefully return with another set of reports next summer! Thanks for reading.
The ages shown are the players’ ages on the 1st September 2016, normally the start of the Premiership season, and all statistics are compiled from rugby.statbunker.com and the relevant organising bodies (ERC, PRL, etc).
The Shark Tank would like to thank Matt Ferguson for all his diligent work over the last six weeks. His Twitter can be found here.
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