Well the waiting’s over. On Saturday Macclesfield Blues will be back playing National 1 rugby at Priory Park. The team will kick off the new season against Richmond, so they’ll be plunged straight into the deep end. But in fairness when you get to this level, there are no easy games. Every team in National 1 is competitive, and every one of them thinks they have what it takes to win, so Macclesfield Blues know that they are in for a fight. Are the Blues confident? Well, naturally they are. They’ve had a good pre-season, so why wouldn’t they be? How confident are they? Well, the person best placed to answer that has to be Head Coach, Giles Heagerty. After all, he knows the mood of the team better than anyone else. Here’s what Giles had to say when he spoke to Macclesfield Rugby earlier this week.
What positives will you take into the new season from the pre-season games?
“I think the most pleasing thing I can take from the pre-season games has been the clear philosophical change in the way we play the game. Every member of the group has bought into it, and that’s very pleasing as I was expecting it to take longer than it has. We played well generally in all the games, but I was particularly pleased with the way we played against Chester.”
“The biggest problem with pre-season games is that some people tend to get hung up on results. Whilst I can understand this I think it’s important to remember that in games like this you’re not winning or dropping points: you’re simply testing performances and systems. Naturally when the season starts properly at the weekend things will be different. The purpose of these games is to give all the players a run-out, to play some rugby and to sharpen up performances.”
“Our focus during these games has been twofold: to get away from the philosophy that you always need to worry about the scoreboard, and to concentrate on the way we’re playing. All the players have bought into this, and I think that new playing mentality was particularly evident in the games against Caldy and Wilmslow. Obviously we made lots of changes during those games, so it was perfectly understandable that we lost some of our shape at times, but I thought the general levels of play were very encouraging.”
Do you think your new rugby philosophy will work effectively in National 1?
“I’m very confident that this new ‘forward-thinking’ philosophy will work well in National 1. The reason I’m so convinced about this is has been the way the players have responded to it. After all they’re the ones who will be carrying it out on the pitch, so if anyone knows if it will work in National 1, then it would be the players. You also have to remember that most of the players have played at this level before, so they’re well-placed to express an opinion. If they really thought it wouldn’t work, then they’d be the first to tell me and the rest of the coaching staff. I can stand here and very easily say ‘of course it will work,’ but I’m not the one doing it or carrying it out. The players put the plan into action on the field, and the fact that they have embraced it so positively tells me that they are convinced it’s the right way to go. So yes, I’m convinced it will work effectively.”
Do you think the Priory Park crowd will buy into the new rugby philosophy as enthusiastically as the players?
“That’s a good question, and one that’s quite difficult to answer. The bottom line is that supporters always want to win. It’s understandable because they’re paying money to watch, so they naturally want to watch a winning side. But I think if you can field a team that not only wins, but wins playing an exciting brand of rugby, then you’re in a much better place. We want the supporters to appreciate what Macclesfield rugby is all about, and that’s exciting, winning rugby. So if we can give them that then I’m pretty confident that they’ll buy into this new philosophy just as enthusiastically as the players have.”
How much do you know about Richmond?
“Well, I know they’ve done a lot of recruitment, that’s for sure. If what you read in the Rugby Paper is true, then Richmond and a lot of the other London rugby sides have had a huge turnover of players over the summer. So we know they will be tough sides to face. Richmond have been in this league a long time and are steeped in National 1 history, so you know they’re going to come to Priory Park with all guns blazing. It’s too easy is get caught up in analysing the opposition, but I think that can often be counter-productive and, as I’ve said to you before, we’re not professional so it isn’t really appropriate. We haven’t got the time and resources to devote to analysis: we have to use what little time we have together as effectively as possible. What we’ll concentrate on instead is our own game and look for ways to constantly improve. The only thing I can be sure of is that Richmond, like every other team in this league, will make us work for a result.”