Last season may only just have ended, but time stands still for no man – particularly a rugby coach. Many of the players may have their sights set on sunshine and sand, but Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, is simply focused on next season and is already busy making plans for Macclesfield Blues National League 2 North campaign. Who’s leaving? Who’s arriving? Well, the only person with the answer to those questions is the man himself. Here’s what Giles had to say when he spoke to Macclesfield Rugby earlier this week.
Have you had a chance to think about the Blues retention and recruitment policy for next season yet?
“Although it’s rather early to be planning for next season, we have given some consideration to player retention and recruitment. We’re very fortunate to only be losing two players for our next campaign. As you know Chris Jones will not play next season, but we’re glad to say he will be coming on to the coaching staff. The other player leaving us is Phil Williams who’s off to Sandhurst. We’re fortunate because we’ve known about both of these things since Christmas.”
“Obviously losing these two has played some part in our recruitment plans. The good thing is that we won’t have to make any wholesale changes. We did bring a fair number of new players in at the start of the last season. Did that disjoint things? I personally don’t think so, but I accept that change is always difficult to manage. Sometimes things take longer to bed in. The good thing is that that’s not something we’ll have to deal with for next season.”
“We’ve already started to build the squad for next season. We’ve already signed up Marshall Gadd and we’re pleased to have been able to re-sign Ryan Parkinson. I hope the supporters will see those signings as a small statement of our intent for next season. Marshall will join us as player/coach, and Ryan will return to his old stomping ground in the back row at Priory Park. Ryan’s had a tough time with injuries during his season with Sedgley. However, we’re pretty confident that he will be fighting fit and fresh for the start of the next campaign.”
Do you think Ryan will quickly come to terms with Macclesfield Blues’ new playing style?
“Ryan shouldn’t have too much difficulty adapting. He’s a very good rugby player with a good footballing brain. It’s also worth bearing in mind that I coached Ryan for a couple of years whilst we were together at Wilmslow, so he already knows the style of rugby I like to play. We’ve already talked about the way we want to play next season, and I don’t think for one moment that Ryan will have any difficulty in taking that new philosophy on board.”
Are there any areas of the Blues’ squad where you are looking to strengthen?
“All I would say is that we’re being strategic in our recruitment. We know that we need to strengthen our defence, so we’ll be looking to bring in another back 5/scrum player. Although we’ve brought Ryan in we know that we’ll be a little bit light in that area after losing both Chris and Phil. We’ll also be looking to bring in another half back to challenge Jordan and to work alongside Tom Eaton. There’s a possibility that position may yet be an internal appointment, [a player who spent some time with us earlier last season, but then spent some time travelling] but we’ll just have to wait and see how things transpire over the next few weeks until we get to pre-season. We may even have a couple of walk-ins, like Josh Hearn last season. He did a really good job for us last year, so it would be good if we were able to find another player like that.”
Has National League 2 North changed much since Macclesfield Blues last played there?
“I think the answer to that depends who you talk to really. We’ve had mixed reports about the nature of the league; some good, some not so good. So I’m afraid I’m going to have to be a bit clichéd in my response to that question. I’m really not all that interested in what other teams are capable of or in what they might be doing. All I’m interested in is my team. We just have to concentrate on ourselves and our performance. We’ve clearly got some things we need to work on, and we know we’ll have to improve in certain areas. We know we’ll face a big challenge next season. We’ll be targeted by the other teams because we’ve dropped down a league, in much the same way as we were targeted last season because we’d been promoted. There’ll be a lot of local North West derbies, and we know that there’ll be a lot of teams gunning for us. Our task is to make sure we’re prepared accordingly.”