What can you really learn from pre-season games? After all, by definition they can’t be as competitive as real fixtures. Well, as far as Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, is concerned, the answer is quite a lot actually. You can tell how well prepared the team is for the tough season that lies ahead, and you can tell whether the team is gelling well and carrying out the game plan to your liking. What Giles learned from the 3 pre-season games played at Priory Park is that Macclesfield Blues are much further advanced than he had been expecting, and that from his point of view is very pleasing indeed and bodes well for the coming season. Here’s what Giles had to say when he spoke to Macclesfield Rugby earlier this week.
What have you learned about the squad during the pre-season games against Nuneaton, Northwich and Wilmslow?
“We’ve learned one or two things: some expected others surprisingly pleasing. We’ve had to mix things up this pre-season, particularly after RGC dropped out late. So that made it difficult for us to get the extra fixture in we’d have liked ideally, which is a shame. Never the less we’ve still been able to get some real quality in the 3 pre-season games we’ve played so far. Obviously we’ve still got Saturday’s game to go. It may be a Cheshire Cup game so we’ll be taking it seriously, but we’ll still be treating it as another pre-season game. “
Has anything surprised you so far?
“The mixture of the teams has in many ways reflected the nature of the games. Although we’ve used a number of regular first teamers in the games against Northwich and Wilmslow, the majority of the first team squad only really played against Nuneaton; though naturally they’ll be playing this weekend too.”
“The one thing that has struck me above all others is just how fit the team is. In all 3 games so far we’ve looked very fit, and that has pleased me greatly. We’ve changed up the way we’ve been preparing for this coming season, so the boys have had to work very hard. I’m pleased to say you can clearly see that the team is already starting to reap the benefits of that extra work. The other thing that’s surprised me, particularly against Nuneaton, was just how far along we are in terms of our attack and defence structures. We were only in possession for just over 10 minutes in the second half of that game, yet we still managed to score 31 points which is incredible.”
“Obviously we’ve been helped by the fact that we didn’t lose many of last season’s players, so the boys already know each other’s game. We have, none the less, brought in quite a few extra players, and that can occasionally disrupt the flow of the team whilst the new guys bed in and get to know the way the squad plays. The good news is all the new players seem to have seamlessly transitioned into the side. What that’s meant is that during the Nuneaton game it didn’t really matter which players were on the field as we could maintain our attacking shape regardless and still be capable of scoring points right until the final whistle.”
What’s your overall impression of pre-season then?
“All in all it’s been a good pre-season experience. We had a very instructive coaches meeting after the Nuneaton game and identified which areas we still need to work on. We’ve been helped in this regard by having a fantastic analyst who’s broken down the game for us and made it much easier to identify the areas we need to work at. That’s been a great help not just to the coaches, but to the players too. We’re probably far more advanced as a team than I expected us to be at this stage of pre-season, though we’ll know a lot more on Saturday and in the following week when we travel down to Stourbridge to open our National League 2 campaign.”