Sam Moss may only be 24, but in rugby terms he’s become something of a veteran. He first started playing for Macclesfield Rugby Club when he was 10. Since that time the one-club hooker has worked his way through the age groups and is now a fixture in the Blues front row. It’s not all been plain sailing mind you, particularly recently, but things seem to have finally turned around, thanks in the main to grit, determination and a sense of self-belief. Though Sam would also factor a little luck into the equation: some times even the best teams’ need the bounce of the ball to go their way. Macclesfield Rugby caught up with Sam this week ahead of the Jersey game at Priory Park and spoke to him about pride, passion and life in the front row.
What’s the reason for Macclesfield Blues turn in fortune after 5 defeats on the bounce?
“I think it’s a mixture of things, but mainly hard work, grit and a determination to succeed. Geoff and Andy have really helped us, and made us realise that you can’t go on beating yourself up. We knew we were good enough: all we needed was a break and a bit of luck. Yes, we’d had a bad run of games, but these things happen in sport. Sometimes things just don’t go according to plan: the true test of character is in how you respond to these setbacks. Losing isn’t something we’re used to here. We’ve been pretty successful most of the time. We knew if we kept focusing on what we do best and kept working hard, then eventually things would turn around. It was down to us as a team and we knew that we were the ones who got us into the situation, and we also knew we were the only ones who could get us out of it. Yes, it was a bad patch, but by sticking together we’ve hopefully turned it round. We’re on the back of two good wins against two good sides, and that’s purely down to the hard work put in by the players and the coaching staff.”
Did the coaches and the team ever consider changing the game plan and making fundamental changes?
“No, I don’t think we ever did. There was no point in changing anything fundamentally, because we knew that what we had been doing, and the way we’d been playing tended to work well. So we were all agreed that the best thing to do was to stick to the game plan that Geoff and Andy had set out initially. It’s a proven strategy, and has won us games and leagues in the past. We still had a real sense of belief because we know deep down that we’re capable of beating anybody on our day. You also need a bit of luck, and I guess we’ve had that for the last couple of games: we’ve had problems with injuries to key players and the bounce of the ball was going against us, but fortunately that seems to have changed.”
Geoff has been very complementary about the pack in the last couple of weeks, praising their tight bonding and impressive performances. Is there a special bond amongst the forwards, and if so, what underpins this?
“Yeah, I guess there is. We work as a unit and do have a special bond. It might be a cliché, but it’s true that the forwards do win you games. The backs maybe decide how many points you win by, but the hard work’s done by the forwards. That losing steak hit all of the team hard, but as forwards we took the losses personally. We felt responsible for those losses, and we knew it was up to us to put matters right. I think the forwards have to take the lead and not pass the buck. The one thing we have in this pack is leaders. We’ve got some really good players in our pack; some experienced older heads and a few good youngsters coming through too. It doesn’t seem to matter which squad members play, we still share the same bond.”
Speaking of forwards, do you need to have a certain type of personality to be a hooker?
“Probably, yes. Some people probably think you’re a bit mad playing in the front row, and sticking your head in places where others wouldn’t. But I enjoy it, and maybe that’s the key to it. Sometimes it’s not the nicest place to be, but you have to just get on with it. A lot of it boils down to personality and character. Hookers have to be confrontational on the pitch. You have to be constantly in the other team’s faces and not be afraid to front up. You won’t get anywhere if you take a backward step. What you need is a strong sense of self belief and not be afraid of handling pressure. It wouldn’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but it suits me down to the ground.”
So do you have two different personalities like Brian Moore used to claim to have: one for on the pitch and one for off it?
“I’m a different player off the pitch. I’m quite calm and pretty quiet I think. On the pitch it’s a different matter. When game time comes you just switch into the zone and almost do become a different person. That’s when nothing else matters: winning is everything. You’ll do whatever it takes to make sure you win the game – no matter what. Mind you, I’m not as fiery now as I used to be. I suppose you could say I’ve grown up a bit and mellowed. I’ll walk away from situations now that could get me in trouble. In the past I wouldn’t have: I would’ve just got stuck in and not thought about the consequences.”
“Now I’m older I’ve realised that I have to be a bit more responsible, and become more of a leader. I was quiet when I first got into the squad and didn’t really say that much, but as you get more experienced you start to find your voice. When you’ve got a great bunch of experienced lads around you, then you learn from them and that builds your confidence. I still want to win every game that I play for Macclesfield, but won’t do anything stupid or get involved when I don’t have to. I put that down to Geoff and Andy. That’s their mantra and I’ve learned from it and think it’s made me a better player.”
Final question:who do you think will be the biggest challengers for the league this year?
“The obvious ones are the current top two at the moment – Ealing and Flyde, though Jersey are going well too. I think they’ll all be up there at the end of the season. Mind you, I was impressed with Tynedale too. They’re a really good team and gave us a hard time. The thing is it’s more important to concentrate on your own game, rather than worry about anybody else’s. If we can keep this current run going, then after a bit of a rest at Christmas, I think we should be able to come out firing on all cylinders. If we do that then I think we’ll definitely be in with a shout as long as we continue to play the way we know we can.”