So we finally have the fixtures for next season’s National Division 1 campaign, and they’re certainly challenging. Macclesfield Blues will face 8 of last season’s top 10 teams before they even reach the end of November. We’re sure Geoff and Andy will have the boys well prepared and drilled for the start of the season, but the team will certainly have to hit the ground running if they’re to maintain the good form of the last couple of years. Still, the Blues have faced tougher challenges than this before and come through with shining colours, so there should be a sense of optimism in the camp, even with the absence of Ross Winney and Charlie and Fergus Mulchrone.
The campaign kicks off with a home game at Priory Park on the first day of September against Blaydon, followed by an away trip up the road to Whitefield to face Sedgley Park. The Blues have played pretty well against both of these teams over recent years, so should be able to approach the games with confidence. Though it has to be said that neither of these teams made it easy for Macclesfield last year, and both seem to relish making life as uncomfortable as possible.
The Blues will need to start confidently because the task starts to get a lot tougher thereafter. Macclesfield will face 3 of last year’s top 5 teams – Ealing Trailfinders, Rosslyn Park and Blackheath in the weeks that follow. These games will be a big challenge if last season’s experience is anything to go by. Still, the good news is at least they’re home fixtures. The Blues also face a tough away trip to the old enemy Fylde in early November. Mark Nelson’s side always seem to save their best form for these games, and will no doubt fancy their chances given the depth of the squad they’ve developed up there at the Memorial Ground. Still, the Blues managed to pull one out of the bag last year at Ealing when everyone had written the team off, so who’s to say that can’t happen again.
The Blues also face known opposition in the form of Cinderford, Cambridge, Coventry, Tynedale and Wharfedale before December. Our record against these teams has been relatively good over the last couple of years, but the Blues will still need to keep their wits about them as all of these teams have been adding strength to their squads over the closed season. The Blues also face 3 new challengers this season – Loughborough Students, Richmond and Esher. Each of these teams is a bit of an unknown quantity, but Macclesfield Rugby is certain that Geoff and Andy will have done their homework and won’t have left any stone unturned. We’ll get a chance to see how these teams perform during the early weeks of the season. The Blues won’t face Richmond until early November, so we hope we have a much better idea of what sort of side they are by then.
Every season starts with optimism, and we’re sure this one will be no different. However, Macclesfield went through periods last season where they looked capable of taking on and beating anyone. Hopefully this season will prove to be similar, and if we manage to cut out some of the handling errors and costly mistakes, we could well be challenging again at the end of the year and looking to maintain our position as one of the top 30 rugby teams in the country.