Although next season might seem like an eternity away, Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, has already been busy planning for the challenges that Macclesfield Blues will inevitably face in National League 1. He’s appointed his new management team and set out his vision for the Macclesfield Rugby Club’s future. He’s also made some brave decisions in terms of his choice of playing and coaching staff. Many of these decisions were inevitable after Geoff Wappett and Andy Northey moved on to pastures new: but others were conscious choices. So what’s the thinking behind these decisions? Why has Giles decided to shake things up? Well, here’s what Giles had to say when he spoke to Macclesfield Rugby earlier this week.
How do you view the role of Captaincy?
“I think it’s fair to say that the role of captaincy has changed over the last couple of years. At one time you had just one leader on the field making the decisions: now the principal role of the on-field captain is to deal with the officials. In rugby you now try to have a number of leaders on the field who work together for the collective good of the team and bring their specific skills and knowledge to the game. My ultimate goal is to try to create more of this type of leadership group on the field. So whilst Mike Finnemore might be the captain and make the calls; he’s still got Tom Eaton and Dave Marwick on the field with him to give him help and advice.”
Will Tom Eaton benefit from his move into a coaching role?
“Yes I think he will. Coaching will be good for him, and he’ll be good for coaching. As a captain Tom has done a fantastic job: he makes the right decisions at the right time. I’ve worked alongside him for 2 years now and I couldn’t have asked for any more. Some people lead by words, whereas others lead by deeds. Tom managed to both simultaneously. I just think the time was right to set new challenges for him, and I think the move up to coaching will be very beneficial for him and his longer term future. The role of skills coach will stretch him and challenge him in a way he’s not experienced before, and I think this can only help to develop him further”
“There are a number of differences between playing and coaching. To be an effective coach I believe you need to have a degree of objectivity. I don’t doubt that Tom could’ve retained the necessary degree of objectivity had he continued in the role of player/captain and coach; after all, he’s a fantastic player and has a deep and thorough knowledge of the game overall. However, as a coach you’ll need to make some fairly difficult decisions from time to time. I didn’t think it would be reasonable to ask anyone to captain the side whilst making decisions that could potentially make you unpopular.”
What was rationale behind making Dave Marwick your new forwards coach?
“As a Head Coach I think it’s important to maximise resources and make the best use of your existing assets. Dave has already done a little bit of coaching and has been doing some work on the line out over the last couple of seasons, and I’ve been really impressed with the contributions he’s made. I think it’s really important for the team to utilise his set piece expertise. At one time coaches would look outside when appointing their management teams, but I’ve always thought this was counterproductive. Why look outside when you can utilise the talent and expertise that already exists within the club? Fortunately rugby is starting to change and clubs are now increasingly looking to appoint from within their own existing structures. It’s just a pity that more clubs haven’t done this sooner because I feel they have missed out. I could have brought in someone from another club, but they would have been costly and they wouldn’t have understood the club and its culture.”
Were Mike Finnemore and Jordan Brookes your obvious choices for team Captain and Vice-Captain?
“I’ve known Mike for a long time. Apart from the 2 years here at Macclesfield I’ve also coached Mike at Sale Academy and at Lancashire Under 20s. From a personal point of view there was only ever going to be one candidate to replace Tom as far as I was concerned, and that was Mike. We have a very good relationship. I have an enormous amount of respect for him. He understands the way that I work, and I understand him. That mutual respect I believe is very important. From a more objective and practical point of view Mike has the ultimate respect of every member of the squad, so the choice was obvious.”
“Mike puts his heart and soul into everything he does, and I know he’ll lead from the front. He’s also not afraid to get his hands dirty and take on some of the more mundane jobs that come with club captaincy. If you want someone to fill up the water bottles during practice or help clear up after sessions, then Mike will always put himself forward. He understands the culture of the Club and is prepared to muck in. These are qualities I really admire and respect. We need to get away from the PrimaDonna sort of culture that is increasingly creeping into the game: what we need are honest and grounded players who’ll work selflessly for the benefit of the Club.”
“Jordan’s an interesting case. He’s very highly regarded in the rugby world at large. Wasps were in discussions with him whilst he was studying at Loughborough: Loughborough loved him too. I think we’re very lucky to have him playing for us to be honest. Fortunately for us work brought him to Manchester and Macclesfield have benefitted. Jordan’s not only a sharp rugby player: he’s also instinctive and reads the game well. He’s our playmaker at 9, but he thinks through everything he does before making decisions. He also has the absolute respect of every other member of the squad. I think those qualities make him the perfect foil for Mike.”