What lessons have Macclesfield Blues learned from last season?

It’s fair to say that relegation was a bitter blow for Macclesfield Blues. However, as disappointing as it was, you’d have to say that league positions don’t lie. Wharfedale ended the campaign with more points than the Blues, so they deserved to retain their National League 1 status. But what lessons can be learned from last season? Well, in the opinion of head coach and director of rugby, Geoff Wappett, there are many. Macclesfield Blues need to understand what went wrong, they need to learn from last season’s mistakes and they have to become more ruthless and clinical when opportunities arise. Here Geoff talks to Macclesfield Rugby about last season’s disappointment and how the team intend to address the situation in the coming season.

What went wrong last year, and why were Macclesfield Blues relegated?

“Well, obviously we didn’t get sufficient points to merit retaining our league status. In terms of points gained, you’d have to say that Wharfedale deserved to stay up. But, there were a number of factors that contributed to our relegation, and I think it’s important that our supporters are aware of and understand these.”

“In the 2010/11 season we played 30 games: we won 17, drew 2, lost 11, gained 25 bonus points and finished 4th overall in the league. In the 2011/12 season we played 30 games: we won 15, drew 1, lost 14, gained 23 bonus points and finished 6th overall in the league. Last season we played 30 games: we won 13, drew1, lost 16, gained 12 bonus points and finished 14th in the league and were relegated. When you look at these figures they are pretty consistent. The only difference with last season was that we just didn’t manage to claim as many bonus points, and that’s what made the difference.”

“There’s no one single reason why we were relegated, but I think it’s important that our supporters understand this:

  • From the pre-season games onwards we suffered numerous injuries to key players keeping them out for long periods – we used 42 players in total in the league campaign
  • Our approach work was considerably better than our finishing and thus we scored fewer tries and consequently fewer Bonus Points(8 four-try bonus points – 4 LBP). This was a major contributory factor in our demotion
  • We had 10 games where we frustratingly scored 3 tries, but frustratingly didn’t claim a bonus point.
  • We had five points deducted for using an ineligible player!
  • We won 2 more games than Cinderford, Tynedale and Wharfedale
  • We were placed 14th with 61 points: Sedgley Park were 15th with 40pts.
  • We kept to the budget set by the committee as we had done in previous years – so often this is a factor which is ignored when looking at results and league tables.”

What conclusions can you draw from these factors, and what lessons can the team take into the new season?

“Well, we have to realistic and accept that we might have over-achieved in some previous years. We have to have more realistic expectations from now on, particularly with the budget we have available to us. It’s far less than some of our competitors. We may have won quite a number of games last season, but we failed to score enough tries. That is something we need to address this season: we need to be more ruthless and take every opportunity when it arises.”

“We also need to study all the small print of the rules and regulations of league rugby. We need immediate access to quality legal representation to ensure we can defend against sending offs, points deductions or whatever else might occur. It’s important to remember that even though we were relegated, we are not a poor team. In fact we beat some very good teams last season and played very high quality rugby in doing so. Having said that we need to focus on our consistency. We have to keep our concentration levels for the full 80 minutes, score more tries and be far more physical in our approach to defending. We should also bear in mind that we have only lost 3 players from last season’s squad and have managed to bring in some quality players. The message we want to give our supporters is this: we are all committed and determined to regain our rightful place in National League 1 and will do whatever it takes to get there.” 

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