There might not have been any rugby played last weekend, but Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, was still busy working and preparing for the challenges Macclesfield Blues will face next season in National 2 North. Although discussions are well under way, the Club are not yet in a position to make any formal announcements. However, once details are eventually finalised, Blues supporters will be the first to know.
Before that, there’s the small matter of the game against Hartpury to deal with. Unbeaten all season and steamrollering all opposition before them; Hartpury College have been the stand out team all year. So should the Blues throw in the towel before a ball is even kicked? Not likely according to Giles. No win is ever guaranteed in National 1. He believes the result will take care of itself: what’s important is that the Blues go out there and enjoy the experience.
In what areas do you think you’ll need to strengthen the squad over the summer to be in with a realistic chance of bouncing straight back up again to National 1?
“We will be a young squad next season in certain areas, but I see that as exciting rather than a drawback. I should qualify that by saying, I mean young in age, not experience. Ideally any coach would like to have at least 2 players in each position, though that isn’t always possible. However, we will be looking to strengthen the midfield and add more depth: that has become more important as Elliot Brierley is retiring. Whilst Max Smith and Lewis Winterbottom are 2 very good rugby players, both have picked up bumps during the course of this season. So we need to be able to look after them: hence the need to do some recruiting in midfield.”
“Naturally we’ll also be looking for good forwards. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a full stable or not: any good forwards are always worth having. It’s important because that’s where the tough stuff happens, so you need strength in depth.”
Do you know for certain whether any of the current squad, other than Elliot, will be moving on or retiring at the end of this season?
“I think there’ll probably be 3 or 4 players who’ll go, though nothing is yet set in stone. You’d expect that to happen anyway. Some guys have been around the Club for a long time, and there are also probably a couple of lads who’ll want to hang around and carry on playing National 1 rugby. I can entirely understand that.”
Have you put any feelers out for new players for next season yet?
“Yes, we’ve already spoken to 3 or 4 guys. We’ve got contract offers out with all of them. Obviously I’m not going to say too much more about it at this point, purely because it’s a fairly volatile market. It’s a small pool of available players, and all the teams will be looking to secure their services. All I’ll say is that we’ve got verbal agreements with a number of players and we will make some further announcements when we’ve got their formal signatures on paper.”
Finally, a word about this weekend’s game: given you already know your fate, have you any other choice but to go for it all guns blazing against Hartpury?
“No, not really. As I’ve mentioned before we’ve set ourselves some targets and we know what our aim is this weekend. We also know the scale of the task we face. I don’t want to sound defeatist, but we all know deep down that we will be facing a monster this weekend – for want of a better term. They’re an exceptionally talented team who deserve all the plaudits for what they’ve achieved this season.”
“What they decide to do on Saturday is entirely up to them, but I doubt that they’ll make too many changes or play a weakened team, because they have a chance to go unbeaten all season. I know if I was in their shoes I wouldn’t be resting players. All we’ve got to do is go out and enjoy it, and make sure we’re in the right frame of mind for when we take on Esher at Priory Park the following weekend.”