As you may have heard earlier in the summer, Macclesfield Blues have been busy recruiting ahead of the new season. Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, has brought in several new players who he believes will give the Blues the extra quality they’ll need to compete at the higher level. Who are they, where do they come from and what will they bring to the team? Well, here’s what Giles had to say.
You’ve added several new players to the squad over the course of early summer; what qualities and strengths will they bring to the team?
“When we last played in National 1 we had a good group of players. Unfortunately, what we didn’t have was the strength-in- depth to be able to compete over the course of the season. Because of that a lot of our off-season recruitment has been focused on adding to our pack and strengthening our playing squad.”
Which players have now joined the Blues, and what can you tell us about them?
“I know Ollie from my time with Sale Sharks Academy. We’ve signed him from Rotherham Tigers and I know he’s a very physical young man. He just brings that extra bit of niggle you need at this level. He’s a talented line out operator who can also carry the ball well. These skills, plus his physicality, are exactly what the squad needs at this time.”
“From what I know about Matt and what we’ve seen in pre-season, he brings similar qualities and strengths to our game. He’s tall so he’ll be good in the lineout and set piece and he’s also a physical player. He spent some time out last season through injury, but he’s already looking sharp in training. So we’re quite excited to have him on board too.”
“We’ve been after Josh for a while now, and I’m really pleased we finally managed to convince him to join us from Rotherham Titans. He’s a versatile player who can play anywhere across the back 5. That’s been the guiding principle behind our forward recruitment this summer – signing players who can ply their trade anywhere across the back 5 of the scrum. These additions give us a degree of versatility.”
“We’ve already got that to some extent; Mike Finnemore can play 4,5,6,7 and 8; Dave Marwick has played in the back row and second row; Harrison Lewis played at blindside last year, but I know he can play at 8 equally well. We’ve continued this search for versatility in our recruitment processes for this season. The added advantage of this type of recruitment is that it means we can try different things each game and we will also be able to keep players fresh, switching them around and still having strong combinations.”
“Liam has experienced National 1 rugby before, and was playing at National 2 level on loan. I know him through England Counties and so I know his strengths. He’s an out-and- out 7 who’s dogged and good over the ball. He’ll bring added strength and depth to our openside this season.”
“At openside we’ve also signed Niall Davidson from Caldy. He, too, is a specialist 7 and adds strength in depth. Why have we signed another openside when we’ve already got a fantastic player like Max Smith? Well, Max’s availability will be limited this season as he’s just qualified to be a doctor. But there’s more to it than that: 7 is probably the most attritional position on the rugby field, so just having one or two options available simply isn’t enough.”
“What we want are the best possible players available week-in week-out; so you need added strength in depth. What we’ve now got is a great pack that will allow us to do the things we couldn’t do last time we were in National 1. As far as I’m concerned, having so many choices available is great. Yes, there might be selection headaches now and then, but I take comfort from this because I know at any one time 15 per cent or so of the squad will be injured.”
Do you think the experience the new players have had of a professional rugby environment will ultimately benefit the team?
“Yes – definitely. We have a fairy clear recruitment model that we try to follow. Part of that is to make sure that at least some of the people we bring in are not just adding value on the field; they add value off the field. By that I mean the experiences they bring from other professional environments means that the expectations they have of the players around them will be high. You hope that the other players are going to respond to that and push themselves to be better amateurs or semi-professionals. We’ve got some big plans at the Club, and the only way we can achieve those plans is by having big players in the squad.”