At the start of the season no one could have conceivably believed that the ultimate outcome of the National League Two North championship would have hinged on the final match of the campaign. Macclesfield Blues may go into the final game of the season as league leaders, but as they are all-to-well aware any one of three teams could ultimately win the title. The team has fought hard all season long to put themselves in this position, but the onus is on Macclesfield Blues to take the initiative and to go out and seize the title they so richly deserve. The message that Head Coach and Director of Rugby, Geoff Wappett, will be giving to his players this week is that nothing less than total focus and commitment will be good enough. The title is there to be won, but it could just as easily be lost at the final hurdle. Here’s what Geoff had to say when he spoke to Macclesfield Rugby this week.
Are the players mentally and physically prepared for the Darlington game?
“Well, they’re as prepared as they could be. We’ve been able to take a much-needed rest and been able to take stock, and so I believe we’ll be able to go into the game in the best possible frame of mind. We can’t change the outcome of the match between Stourbridge and Harrogate, but we can determine our own fate. Training this week will be dedicated to brushing up one or two things where I think we might be able to improve, but we won’t be worrying about Darlington. We’ve played them before and acquitted ourselves well. Our principle concern is our own game and playing to our strengths, so we’ll be concentrating on that and that alone. The players know what they have to do if they want to finish the season as champions, so as far as I’m concerned we’re good to go and looking forward to the challenge.”
Does Darlington’s victory at Sheffield change anything?
“No, that result was widely predicted. We all knew they’d win, and we all believed they’d come away with the bonus point too. I went down to watch the match, more out of curiosity than anything else. Sheffield played an understrength team because of the holiday commitments of the players, but so did Darlington. So I can’t say I learned anything new from the experience, other than Darlington are a fine side. What was glaringly obvious is that if we want to get a result down at the Northern Echo Arena then we’ll have to put in our best 80 minute performance of the season – anything less than total focus and commitment will see us coming up short. I’m ready, the players are ready and so are the supporters – so bring it on.”
Is this just another game as far as you’re concerned, or is it Macclesfield Blues’ cup final?
“Personally I’d prefer to treat it just like any other game, but I appreciate that that would be difficult in the circumstances. Everything does hinge on the result. If we win, we’ve won the championship; if we lose or draw then other permutations will come into play. I’ve drawn up a list of all possible results and permutations for the players to look at in training this week. Whilst I want us to go there and play for the win, I think it’s important for the players to know exactly where they stand if results don’t go the way we would like or expect. Sometimes a lack of awareness can lead to sloppy play, and one moment’s madness could lose us the championship. So I’ll spend a little time tonight outlining the situation to the boys, then we’ll move on and focus on doing what we’ve been doing pretty well all season.”
Is it important for you and the players to have such good travelling support behind you?
“I think the travelling support will help the boys considerably. I don’t think we’ve ever travelled to a game of this magnitude with as much support as this – even when we’ve played at Twickenham. The boys appreciate it and so do I. What we now have to do is deliver the goods and give our loyal supporters what they want.”
What final thoughts will you share with the boys before they cross the whitewash on Saturday?
“I’ll just tell them to go out there and play to their strengths. They’ve earned the right to be in this position, so now they have the opportunity for glory, they owe it themselves to go out there and take it with both hands. Not many players get to be in such a position during their careers, so it’s incumbent on them to make sure they don’t waste the opportunity. The glory is there waiting: they just have to go out there and seize the day.”