The first half of the season may have panned out well, but there are still another 15 games to go before Macclesfield Blues can relax and pat themselves on the back. Being top of the league in December means nothing: being in the number one spot in May means everything. If Macclesfield Blues are to claim the top prize, then Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, knows that they still have a mountain to climb. If they’re to reach the summit they will still need to show dedication, commitment and passion. Here is Giles’ take on the second half of the season and his opinions on the upcoming game at Caldy.
Having played all the teams in the league once this season, what sort of impressions have you formed about your competitors?
“Well, there’s no question that the league we are playing in is extremely competitive. I think that league position also means nothing any more. Huddersfield were one of the best, if not the best side, we’ve played so far this season in terms of a full 80 minute performance, but their league position doesn’t reflect this form. I also think the league will remain highly competitive until the last couple of weeks of the season. There’s going to be an awful lot of good rugby played during the course of the second half of the season, and the good rugby won’t only be played by us. There will be twists and turns and frequent upsets before the season curtain closes, but that’s what makes this season’s National 2 North competition so entertaining.”
Has the high standard of rugby surprised you?
“No, not really – things move on and times change. The standard of rugby is a little bit different from what we saw two years ago. Rugby has evolved not just in the Championship and National 1, but in National League 2 too. It’s a kind of trickle-down effect. I can’t say I’ve been all that surprised by the change. The standards in National 1 had increased dramatically when we played there last year, and the same thing has happened in National 2. Standards are increasing exponentially everywhere. Teams are getting stronger and the challenges are becoming more difficult.”
“One of the things that I’ve found gratifying and most pleasing is that rugby in the North is clearly very strong. There has been lots of press speculation suggesting the opposite, but that speculation is clearly wrong. Rugby, particularly in the North West, is in pretty good shape. You only have to look at the number of North West clubs participating in National League 2 to see that. There’s some good young talent coming through the ranks and I think many of these youngsters will go on to play at a higher level.”
Will the Blues’ strategy change at any point during the second half of the season, or will you continue to stick with what has served you well so far?
“We just need to continue to do what we’ve been doing and be better at it. We’re constantly looking to evolve and improve, and if that means we have to add things to our game plan, then so be it. All I’m looking for is for the players to challenge themselves to be better week-in week-out. We’ve shown some really good things so far. Our decision making has improved since the Sedgley loss, and I’m looking for that to continue. We’re in a reasonably good place, so why would we want to reinvent the wheel when there’s no need? We just have to continue doing what we do well, and learn to do it better and for longer. We still haven’t put in a full 80 minute performance yet. If it takes us til the last game of the season to get that performance, then I’ll take that. But hopefully we’ll manage it before then.”
The last match against Caldy was a close-run affair, are you expecting a similar sort of game this time?
“I think it will definitely be a close game, simply because of the competitive nature of the two sides and the history of the fixture. What I would say is that I think we’re a better side than when we last played Caldy. Caldy’s a tough place to go and play rugby at, as they’re a very good side; as they’ve shown with some of the scalps they’ve taken so far this season. At Priory Park they pushed us all the way til the last play of the game when they got their losing bonus point. You could even argue that maybe they deserved to win that game. They suffered when a couple of decisions didn’t go their way, but that’s rugby.”
“They had a good win just before the Christmas break, and they’ve got momentum behind them. But then again, so have we. What is most important is what we do in training this week. We’re in for 3 days this week, and the boys will need to reassure me that they haven’t been resting on their laurels during the break. We may have performed well and beaten Sale comprehensively, but that game’s gone now – it’s history. We’ve turned the page now and we’re going to have a tough week’s training to make sure that we’re ready to face Caldy. Hopefully they’ll be chomping at the bit to take up where we left off.”