Are you looking forward to your summer holiday this year, and daydreaming about your time in the sun? If you are, then no doubt some of the Macclesfield Blues squad will be looking on with envy. Their holidays unfortunately are over, as Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, has already got the boys back in training in preparation for life in National League 1. Pre-season training started last week, and by all accounts started with a bang. Then again, if you want to mix it with the big boys, you’ve got to be well-prepared, and that sometimes takes blood, sweat and tears. So what have the boys been up to? What sorts of fitness and conditioning regime have Giles and the coaching staff put in place for the 2014/15 season? Here’s what Giles told Macclesfield Rugby this week.
How’s pre-season training going so far?
“We’ve already started our pre-season preparation, and are a week into training. Mike Carolan and Chris Jones can largely take the credit for that. I may have given them some guidance about the type of fitness scheduling I wanted, but the organisation of it all is down to them. I have to say they’ve done a fantastic job too. I’ve been pleased with the way the boys have embraced the training. It might look brutal, but they seem to be enjoying it none the less. From a personal perspective I’m glad for once in my life that I’m not part of it.”
“We’ve completed two sessions so far. We had the boys in last Tuesday for some fitness testing and a testing block, and on Thursday they completed a heavy duty fitness session along with a little rugby. That really is going to be the general sort of thing for pre-season for the next 6 weeks or so. We’re going to begin with two weeks of concentrated fitness work to get everybody up to speed, then we’ll taper that sort of training down and spend more time concentrating on the rugby side of things. Then we’ll step things up and concentrate on conditioning games and pre-season friendlies. It might seem excessive at first, but before you know it the season will be on us, so it’s important to be as well prepared as possible. Anyway in comparison with some sides like Cornish Pirates who had their players back in for training at the beginning of May, I think we’re being quite relaxed. Players need a break, so they come back relaxed and refreshed.”
What pre-season matches will Macclesfield Blues be taking part in?
“During August we’ll be playing an internal game on the 16th, followed by a game at Caldy on the 19th, then Chester for a triple-header against them and Cleckheaton on the 23rd. The second team will also be playing a couple of preparation games against Wilmslow on the 26th and Lymm on the 30th. It might seem like a compressed match programme, but we’ve done that deliberately, so that the players are put under stress and pressure. I’d much rather go short and sharp than drag things out.”
“Anyway, I think we’ve got the balance right this time. In the last couple of years we’ve played fixtures against Championship opposition, and I think they’ve actually ended up being counterproductive. I think doing things this way will suit us and fit in with our preparations better. These games will provide a test for the boys, but won’t overextend them. It also gives me a chance to give all the boys a run out so that I can take a proper look at them, and it gives the lads the chance to implement the new sort of systems we’re trying to put in place here.”
Are all the squad back in training, or have one or two yet to arrive back?
“We’ve got a full squad available near enough. We’ve only got the one injury which we found out about this week, and that’s Dave Marwick. We’re still trying to establish whether he’s going to need surgery, which is a blow. We’ve also got a couple of lads who are still away on holiday, but by the end of this week we’ll have seen all the squad except one player who is still in Australia. I’m grateful that the players seem to have taken their holidays early this year, because that will give us good contact time with the squad. I think that’s a real credit to the players and shows just how well they’ve bought into what we’re trying to achieve here.”
Do you get the impression that the team are relishing the prospect on playing National 1 rugby again?
“There’s a great buzz about the group, and I think that, in part, is down to the prospect of playing rugby at a higher level. However, I also feel our new rugby strategy has re-energised some of the boys too. That’s not to say that they were bored with the way we were playing before – far from it. I just think change presents different challenges, and that’s what they are finding appealing. The way we are trying to play will take them out of their comfort zone, and that will ultimately help them develop further and become better, more-rounded players. My philosophy has always been you can only get better if you keep challenging yourself, and that ethos is one the lads seem to have wholeheartedly bought into.”