What will next season’s Macclesfield Blues squad look like? Who’ll be plying their trade at Priory Park in National 2 come September? Well, the one person who should know is Head Coach, Giles Heagerty. Unfortunately, at the moment things are not all that clear-cut. There’s a very small pool of players available in North West rugby with many local teams vying for their signatures. Giles is therefore, unable to disclose too many details as negotiations are still taking place. However, here is his round-up of what we currently know about Blues’ retention and recruitment.
How far along the road are you to recruiting the squad for next season’s National 2 campaign?
“Well, it’s a little bit tricky to talk about that issue at the moment as discussions are still taking place. We’re recruiting from a small group of players in the North West and face stiff competition from our local rivals for the signatures of the type of player we’re looking to recruit. As things become clearer, we’ll keep all our supporters informed.”
Is it easier to start then by talking about the players who are leaving the squad?
“Yes, it is. Elliot Brierley has retired and we wish him all the best for the future. Tom Eaton has decided to move on to pastures new and will be playing and coaching at Stockport. Paul Melia has gone up to Preston Grasshoppers as it’s a little bit closer to where he lives. Elliot Millar Mills has left the Club, although he’s currently unattached. I think he’s seeking National 1 rugby, and we can understand that. Ollie Parkinson has gone to Fylde. Niall Davison will be leaving to spend some more time with his family, and there will also be a couple of other guys on the periphery of the squad who will also be moving on.”
“Max Smith, known affectionately as Dr Max by the squad, is going to be playing some rugby, but we’re not sure who for? He’s really helped us out this season, despite the fact that he’s been working and commuting from Birmingham. He’s been a great servant to the squad and was Player’s Player of the Year in our last National 2 campaign. He’s been very important to us, but he’s so up to his neck in his medical training and his military responsibilities that we can understand his difficulties. It would be great if we could keep hold of him, but we’ll understand if that isn’t possible.”
“It may sound like we have a long list of players leaving us, but I don’t really see it that way. A number of those departures were already anticipated, and we only wish all of departing players the very best. It’s fair to say, however, that we are losing a significant amount of experience. The challenge now, for the players and the coaching staff, is to give some of the younger players the chance to find their voice and develop their own experience in the right circumstances for the long-term development of the group.”
What are you say able to say about recruitment as things stand?
“So far we’ve brought in two front row forwards: a lad called Joe Durnley, who’s come highly recommended from Glossop. He did a few sessions with us last season so we could have a look at him, and we were very impressed with what we saw. We’ve also brought in Tom Poole, who has played for both Cheshire Under 20s and the North Under 20s. Those 2 are now signed and sealed. We’ve also got Brendan Berry coming back to us after 2 seasons out in New Zealand. He has developed massively as a player whilst out there, so it will be great to have him back involved at Macclesfield.”
“As regards other signings, all I can say at the moment is that we’re quite far along the line in signing other players who interest us, but we can’t really say too much about that at this moment in time. We’re expecting to make some announcement of those in the next 2 to 3 weeks.”
Is recruitment this off-season more difficult than normal?
“Yes, recruitment this year has been difficult for everyone concerned. As I’ve mentioned before the pool of players from which to choose in the North West is very small, and that makes the market volatile. There are so many clubs looking to recruit from the same pool of players, so you have to be quite careful who you recruit and who you recruit from.”
“In the North West there is great competition for players, Caldy have already got themselves into National 1 so are looking to recruit heavily. In National 2 you’ve also got local teams like Macclesfield Blues, Sale FC, Sedgley Park and Chester calling on the same pool of players. When you drop down a couple of leagues you’ve also got Stockport, Wilmslow, Manchester, Lymm and Wirral all trying to draw on the same group of players. so competition is very tough.”
“At the end of the day, unfortunately, recruitment is all about money. It may sound like I’m saying the same thing over and over again, but there’s no disputing the fact that money is an issue in North West rugby. We haven’t got as much money as the teams I just mentioned in National 1 and 2, so we struggle to get all the players we would like ideally. So are hands are tied to some extent with recruitment. However, on the positive side, we have managed to retain around 90 per cent of last season’s playing squad, so we know that at least we’ll have some continuity going into next season’s National 2 campaign.”