What is it with injuries? They’re worse than buses. Just when Macclesfield Blues managed to get what was close to its strongest squad on the pitch, three more injuries come along. Within the space of 50 minutes down in Coventry, Macclesfield Rugby Club lost 3 more of its key players: Tom Eaton, Ryan Parkinson and Dave Marwick. It really doesn’t just rain these days: it pours. So what did Head Coach and Director of Rugby, Geoff Wappett, make of the proceedings? Was he crying into his beer on Saturday night and shaking his fist at the rugby Gods, or was he more philosophical about the situation and already planning for this weekend’s visit to Priory Park of high-flying Rosslyn Park?
Well, that’s a question that doesn’t really need answering. Geoff’s philosophy is and remains that you have to play with the hand that’s been dealt to you. Moaning and grumbling about how unfair life can be gets you nowhere. You just have to roll up your sleeves and make the most of what’s available. Here’s Geoff take on the Coventry game.
Disappointing: is that how you’d describe the Coventry result, or would understandable be a better description?
“It wasn’t the result we were looking for obviously, but strangely we played pretty well for a good part of the game. We remained competitive for an hour or so and only got overrun in the last 10 to 15 minutes. When you consider that we’d used most of the bench by that stage, then it’s hardly surprising. The problem is some people may see this as an excuse, but when you get so many injuries happening at once then you’re always going to struggle.”
So how badly did the injuries affect the game plan?
“Well they changed it completely. Within 5 minutes of kick off, we’d lost Tom Eaton with an ankle ligament injury. So we knew it was going to be an uphill task thereafter once you’re main playmaker’s gone. On about the 35 minute mark we lost Ryan Parkinson with a broken arm. Poor lad; he’s only just recovered from a broken hand which has fixed with a bit of metal, and now he’s got a bit of metal in his forearm too. It was a bad injury which meant he had to stay in hospital overnight and have his operation on the Sunday. Dave Marwick soldiered on despite having problems for most of the game. I’d have preferred to keep him on, but we had to pull him out after 50 minutes because of persistent groin problem which now looks like it might be a hernia.”
What is it with this run of injuries?
“I know – the injury situation is just unbelievable. I’ve been involved in rugby a long time, but I’ve never known anything like this before. The volume and regularity of the injuries is just incredible. We got so many players out now, and unfortunately it’s the back 5 of the pack which is suffering the most. That’s the fulcrum of the team and so it is a huge concern for us. But that’s life and you have to get on with it. We’re still in quite good spirits and trained well last night, in spite of all that’s gone on.”
“The problem is rugby’s not like football: you can’t just open the cheque book and go and buy another player. We’re on the look-out for players obviously, but most of the players you’d want in an ideal world are already contracted to other clubs. Besides, we’re not just looking for ‘players’: we’re looking for players who’ll fit in with the team and the philosophy we have at this Club.”
Still, the Blues still tried to take the game to Coventry, so that must please and encourage you?
“Well yes it does. For a large part of the game we took the play to them and exerted quite a lot of pressure. We were camped on their line for about 15 minutes when the score was 3 all. They somehow managed to turn the ball over, take a quick tap penalty and score in the corner just prior to the whistle, so we went in 8 – 3 down. Still, for the first 20 minutes of the second half we still managed to compete well. The problem was we just didn’t have enough strength in depth on the bench, and that gave Coventry the upper hand and the lion’s share of possession and obviously the points. We just collapsed which is sad and disappointing, but understandable in the circumstances. The positive point we can take from this is that when we had our stronger team on the park we restricted them just to penalties and one drop goal, so we’re defending well.”
With such a depleted squad, is the task against Rosslyn Park even more of a challenge?
“Well, it is obviously as Rosslyn Park are playing well at the moment. The only thing is that the league is unpredictable this year. There are some really surprising results coming out, so that makes it difficult to assess what’s likely to happen in any game. We’ve beaten Rosslyn Park in the past and they’ve beaten us. As daft as this might sound in our present circumstances, all the teams are good in this league, but equally all the teams are beatable. We’ve been playing some good stuff this season, and did so again on Saturday: the problem is that we haven’t been clinical enough and haven’t managed to take our chances when they’ve arisen. That’s what we’ve been working on this week.”
“If we can be clinical, manage to get a decent start and get the support of the Priory Park crowd, then anything is possible. It’s important that we make the most of home advantage, and that’s why I’m hoping our supporters will be our 16th man. We’re working double-time on Tom’s injury and hope that he’ll be able to play some part, but it’s doubtful. Obviously we won’t be able to call on Ryan or Dave Marwick either, so the other players will have to step up and be counted, and hopefully the home crowd will too.”