The result was a disappointment, but in many ways it was understandable given the demands of a long and tough season. Saturday’s match at Wharfedale in a swirling breeze was possibly just that one game too far. Still, taken as a whole, the season has been by and large successful. Macclesfield Rugby may not have reached last season’s heights in National League One, but they have acquitted themselves admirably none the less. In a season fraught with injuries and racked by spells of bad luck and form, the Blues have overcome every obstacle and finished a creditable sixth. Yes we were all possibly expecting more after the success of last season, but sometimes expectations can be unreasonable. By and large Head Coach and Director of Rugby, Geoff Wappett, has been satisfied by the season’s return, though as ever, he is keen to push on his team to always achieve more. Here Geoff talks to Macclesfield Rugby about the weekend’s disappointment and the even sadder news that 3 of Macclesfield’s finest will no longer be wearing the blue kit next year at Priory Park.
Were you surprised by the result at the weekend?
“It was a really disappointing result. Sadly it had that end-of-season stamp written all over the game – for us at least, and I was surprised. Mind you when you look at the league results across the board on Saturday, where everything like promotions and relegations had been sorted out, ours wasn’t the only disappointing result. One example springs to mind immediately: Coventry going down 44 nil to Cinderford. If that doesn’t flag up the end-of-season stamp, then I don’t know what does? All of Saturday’s results were pretty one-sided with the home team invariably coming out on top. It’s as if a lot of these teams thought, well, there’s nothing to play for now, so let’s just go through the motions. Now I thought here was still something to play for whether you see it as pride or simply finishing the season on a high. But maybe I’m on my own there.”
So what went wrong?
“I can’t put my finger on a single reason why we didn’t perform as we know we can, other than the fact it was the final game in what’s been a very long season. Now some people might say that’s just a lame excuse but, any team that plays 30 games f rugby at that level will struggle towards the end, especially f they’ve got a small squad. The competition is demanding and physically taxing. Inevitably it takes its toll, and the players finish up physically and mentally tired. I feel it too. It’s hard work keeping it going week after week without respite. That wasn’t the same team that’s put in sterling performances this year. We looked like a shadow of the team we can be. Every now and then granted, we broke into the rhythm we expect to produce and we really looked quite good. Unfortunately we couldn’t maintain that for any length of time. We scored a couple of nice tries and looked like we woken from our slumbers, but we hadn’t. It was only temporary and Wharfedale got what they deserved.”
So no excuses then?
“No. The wind was pretty strong, but that’s no excuse. Both teams played in the same conditions. Granted they had a big home crowd and that probably lifted them, but it’s our job to deal with circumstances like that, and on this occasion we couldn’t. Home teams always raise their game and are determined to give the crowd a good send of and say thank you for the season’s support, and that’s what they did. We did the same last season.”
Is it true that we’re losing 3 key players for next season?
“Yes – we’re losing both Fergus and Charlie Mulchrone to Rotherham for next season and Ross Winney is about to retire, so we’re going to have to look to replace them over the closed season. We’re delighted that Fergus and Charlie have the chance to step up and play in the Championship. They’ve been great servants to the Club and are talented boys who are reaping just rewards for all their efforts. It’s easy to appear nice when news like this breaks, when deep down you’re disappointed, but in truth both these boys deserve the opportunities. I might have felt different if they swapping cubs for Caldy or some other team, but they’re not: they’re stepping up to a higher level and everyone here at the Club wishes them the very best. If it isn’t to their liking, then there’s always a place here at Macclesfield.”
“Ross is a different case altogether. He’s given the Club an enormous amount over the years, and has been a true servant and great leader. Ross is a real gentleman and will be missed enormously. The problem is that work and the demands of work are starting to take their toll. He’s been promoted and is finding it increasingly difficult to find enough time for rugby and training. We wish him all the best and thank him for everything he’s done over the years for the Blues. All we have to do now is find replacements for the lads who are leaving, and that won’t be easy.”