The new season may still be some time away, but anyone with an interest in Macclesfield Blues will be itching for the first ball to be kicked in anger in September. They’ll also no doubt be wondering who will be pulling on the shirt at Priory Park when the season finally starts. So this week when Macclesfield Rugby caught up with Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, we thought we’d ask those very questions: which members of the 2013/14 are likely to leave the squad, and who will be coming into to replace them? Here’s what Giles had to say.
Have last year’s squad remained largely intact, or have one or two moved on?
“We’ve lost a few of last year’s squad unfortunately, but we already had an idea that this might happen. Ed Stobart has retired and so won’t be representing the Club next season. It might sound odd to hear about retirement for someone in their early 20s, but Ed’s been given a business opportunity and feels he needs to focus on that, rather than his rugby. We’ve also lost Tom Davenport, Chris Townsend and Sam Moss to Sale F.C, and Ryan Parkinson has gone on to play for Sedgley Park.”
“Yes it’s disappointing, but realistically you know that you’re always going to lose players for one reason or another. That’s particularly true now that Macclesfield are stepping up a gear in National League 1. The physical demands required at this level, and the amount of travel involved were probably two of the factors behind their decisions, and we have to accept that we’re not really in a position as a Club to pay the sort of salaries that players coming towards the end of their careers would demand. It may be unfortunate, but it’s perfectly understandable in the circumstances.”
“In spite of these losses we’ve managed to keep the rest of the squad together and that really is pleasing. We’ve kept hold of the likes of Dean Williams, Tom Mantell and Billy Robinson and that’s vital because they were important signings for us, and have been cornerstones of our squad for the past two and half years I’ve been involved with the Club. I’ve no doubt they’ll continue to be so in the years ahead.”
Are you pleased that Macclesfield Blues have managed to retain a large proportion of last season’s championship-winning squad?
“Of course I’m pleased with the outcome, but I have to say that we’ve worked pretty hard since my appointment in January to keep the nucleus of the squad together. A big turnover can be disruptive, and that’s the sort of distraction we could do without as we step up a division.”
What about new signings? Are you in a position to announce anything yet?
“What I’ve tried to do is bring in players, so that we’ve got competition for places in every position. We’re also aware of the fact that a number of our existing players aren’t getting any younger, so we need to bring in fresh talent who will ultimately go on to replace them. It’s all about succession planning, and that really has been the key to our recruitment this year. That’s why we’ve looked to bring in a number of younger players who we can work with. These players aren’t coming into the squad without experience though: they’ve all played at a decent level of rugby before, whether that’s at England level or otherwise, so they should be able to adapt easily enough.”
“We concentrated primarily on local level recruitment, because I think it’s very important to have as many members of the squad as possible on site for Tuesday and Thursday training. It’s all well and good recruiting players from Universities, but if they can’t necessarily make it back for every training session I think you’re putting unnecessary demands on both them and the rest of the squad. What I want to be able to do is put the best prepared team out for every game, and that means we need to be working together week-in week-out.”
“We focused our recruitment on young players who been exceeding expectations at local Clubs. We’ve brought in a tight head from Stockport Rugby, a second row from Caldy, and a couple of back rowers that I’m pleased about. One of the lads plays for Cypress and has been away with the England Under 20s recently. Everything I’ve heard and seen about him is really promising, and I’m excited about working with him. We’ve also signed a lad called Ollie Chambers. I’ve worked with him in the past and he’s a very talented scrum half. I think he’ll be a great understudy for Jordan. We’ve also signed a couple of exciting midfield backs: one from Stockport and one who I’ve worked with before – Ollie Fewtrell. He’s a really talented player who can play at either 12 or 13, and I think he’ll prosper in the environment at Macclesfield.”
What’s the thinking behind your recruitment process?
“The majority of the players I’ve brought in I’ve worked with before. One of the reasons I’ve done this is that they know me and they know the way I coach and like to play the game. They also understand what’s expected of them. As I know them I know they’re the right fit for the Club. It’s easy to go out and spend money on players who’ve played at a good level of rugby, but if you don’t know them you’ve no idea whether their character will fit in the culture and philosophy we’re trying to create here at the Club.”