Summers without sport generally seem to last an eternity. Many supporters suffer withdrawal symptoms and can’t wait to get back to competitive action. For some reason this summer has been different: it hasn’t dragged like normal. Perhaps that’s because we’ve been spoilt this time around. We’ve been distracted by the World Cup, Wimbledon, The Open and latterly the Commonwealth Games. There’s been plenty for sports fans to get their teeth into, but the sport, however good, hasn’t been able to fully satisfy rugby fans – with the possible exception of the Commonwealth 7s.
Fear not though, the return of rugby to Priory Park is now within touching distance. In just under a fortnight Macclesfield Blues will be taking to the pitch again in the first pre-season friendly against Caldy. Is the team ready to roll? Are all the necessary preparations in hand? Will the Blues hit the ground running? There’s only one person who’s qualified to answer those questions, and that’s Head Coach, Giles Heagerty. Here’s what Giles had to say to Macclesfield Rugby when we hooked up earlier this week.
Are all the pre-season preparations going to plan?
“We’ve been really pleased with the way things have been going, and we’re pleased to be where we are. We’ve been getting good numbers of senior players attending training, and I’m delighted to say that we’ve also been seeing a good number of Colts attending each week, and I need to thank Fred Taylor for that. All in all I think we’ll have a very competitive side ready to go when we start the season in September.”
“As a squad we’ve been working hard so that we can adapt to some of the changes we’re trying to make for the new campaign. The new patterns may appear unfamiliar to some of the players, but I have to say all of the lads have bought into the process really well. Naturally I’d like more time with the players to work on things, but that’s a mantra every coach will preach at every level. Never the less I’m pretty pleased with where we’re at at the moment. As we all know we’re not professional, so the time we have available to us is quite limited, but having said that I think we’ve done a pretty good job in maximising what we have.”
How are the players adjusting to the new philosophy of bringing tactical variation to the game plan?
“I think they’ve all embraced the philosophy positively. All the lads are ready for a new challenge, so the transition has been relatively seamless. In many ways it almost seems that we’ve haven’t really skipped a beat. That’s probably helped by the fact that we had a relatively short off season, so getting back into training didn’t come as such a culture shock. Like all top class players, they’ve just come in, knuckled down and got on with it.”
“It’s also helpful that most of the players already know me pretty well, having worked with me for 2 years or so here at Macclesfield. So the lads knew what they were getting in terms of personality and I’ve been fairly open from the start about what was involved and how we were going to play. Besides the sort of changes we’re trying to make aren’t complicated: they’re simply tweaks on what we’ve been doing at the Club for some time. Obviously I’m asking players to use their brains regularly, but that’s not really all that different from what they were doing last season and the one before that. The only difference I suppose is that I’m asking them to think about different things, and look at the game in a slightly different way.”
Are you confident everything will be on track when you take to the field against Caldy?
“That all depends what you mean by ‘on track’? People say does it matter to you whether you win your pre-season games, and the answer I always give to that is not really. We’re all winners obviously, and we all have that winning mentality, but these games, in my opinion, ate just part of the process: they’re a necessary step in our preparations, but the real focus for me on the first game of the season. Naturally we’d like to be competitive, but we also need to look at the bigger picture. All I want to achieve with these games is putting in place what we’ve been working on and assessing how effective that strategy works in a competitive environment.
Will we get everything right against Caldy? I don’t think so, but that’s why we’re playing a number of friendlies. It’s all part of the process and the goal is to be ready to go on the 6th September. I’m not saying that we’ll be the finished item by then either, but we hope to have all the basics in place. We can then add to that and bring in more variation over the course of the season.”