After a long and frustrating wait, Macclesfield Blues finally kick off their National League 2 North campaign travelling down to the Midlands to face Stourbridge at Stourton Park. There could’ve been easier games to begin with, but it is what it is. If Macclesfield Blues want to replicate the success they enjoyed two seasons ago when they last played in this league, then they will have to take on and beat all comers. So, let battle commence. What sort of challenges are the Blues likely to face this weekend? Well, the person best placed to answer that is Head Coach, Giles Heagerty. Here’s what he had to say when he spoke to Macclesfield Rugby this week.
What are you expecting from Stourbridge?
“What we can definitely say is that we will be facing a tough physical battle. That you can guarantee. I don’t pretend to know the finer details about who Stourbridge have brought in and who they haven’t, but we do know that it’s going to be a bloody hard game. Stourbridge are a club who, with the highest amount of respect, have almost ended up being the bridesmaids over the last few seasons. They’ve been there or thereabouts, but never quite made it. I suspect they’ve probably had enough of that, hence the apparent recruitment drive this summer. When teams do that sort of thing it suggests to me that this season they’ll be pushing for a top spot come the end of the season. So we’ve got to go and give them due respect, but our main focus will be on playing our own game.”
What do you make of Stourbridge?
“We’ve done a little bit of research on them, and looked at their pre-season results, but those results don’t necessarily give you the full picture. What’s often missing is the context you need. You only get that when you’re able to watch the videos of the performances and speak to the coaches. The only thing we can say with any degree of certainty at this stage is that we know it’s going to be tough, and so we’ve prepared accordingly.”
In an ideal world would you have preferred an easier start to the campaign?
“Well, we have to face all the teams at some stage, so in some ways it’s good to get the more difficult matches out of the way. If you think back to our last National 2 campaign, we started the season facing Darlington away. Fixtures don’t come much tougher than that. But we went there and got a result. We ended the campaign against them too, and you know what happened then. It’s just the way it is I guess. Who knows, maybe the fixture secretary look at the fixtures and thought, well these two teams may be there or thereabouts at the end of the season, so let’s get these games out of the way as a flag raiser and a season closer as well? I don’t really know, but for the supporters it’s definitely an exciting start to the campaign.”
Are you pleased with where the team is at going into the season?
“Well, the honest answer to that is no. As I’ve said before what we crave as coaches is more time with the players. No matter how well prepared you are, coaches always want more contact time. Having said that, I think we’ve done very well to get to where we are given the time constraints we’ve faced. We’ve worked on some areas of game, but there are still others that need to be improved. If I was going into this game thinking we are the complete package, then I’d be very concerned. We’ve had a couple of players who’ve arrived late and they’re still getting used to the system, and we’ve got a couple of others out with injury who are still transitioning back into the group. So not everything is as perfectly settled as I would ideally have liked.”
What are your hopes for the team this season?
“I spoke to a coach the other week who said something interesting; something that really struck a chord with me. He said the question he always asks his coaches is not, are we in a good place, but what’s going to be the teams’ next evolution? That’s something I’ve really taken to heart. You have to keep evolving as a team: if you stay still too long, you’ll eventually end up going backwards.”
“We have evolved over the course of the last season in the way we play the game – in spite of the results – but we still have to continue to evolve and improve. There are things we are very good at now, but there are other things that we need to add into our game to get better. The other advantage of evolution is that it challenges the players, and that has to be a good thing. We’ve been fortunate to have assembled a squad of players who want to get better, and they’re prepared to push themselves to achieve that. That gives me confidence.”