To win the league convincingly is reward enough: to win the league and lift the tile in front of your home supporters is the icing on the cake. Macclesfield Blues’ bonus point victory last weekend secured the National League 2 North title with 3 games to spare. It was a fitting prize for all the hard work the Blues have put in throughout the course of the season, and was a richly deserved reward. But what happens now? How can you motivate players when they’ve already achieved their goals? What possible targets are left to achieve this season? The person best placed to answer those questions is Head Coach, Giles Heagerty. Here’s what he had to say.
Congratulations on winning the league in style: how pleasing was it to get the league done and dusted at the first time of asking, and at Priory Park?
“We were just thrilled. The team were quite rightly over the moon, and as you would expect they celebrated in style. The coaching team were equally as thrilled as you would expect. There was a little bit of emotion during the game, particularly when that fourth bonus point try was scored; but I think that just shows how much it meant to us as a team. After all the trials and tribulations we went through last season, reaching this point has been doubly satisfying. So yes, the best word to describe the feeling is thrilling.”
Having achieved your goal with games to spare, how do you motivate the players for the rest of the season?
“I’m pretty sure that won’t be a problem. After we got the points against Sedgley last weekend, we sat down and set some targets. We laid out what we wanted to achieve over the course of the remaining games, and put plans in place to achieve that. We’ve got the Cheshire Cup Final to play midweek, Sale FC away, Stourbridge at home and finally Harrogate on our own patch. We’ve set our targets for these games, and the players know what they have to do. All we have to do now is go out and deliver on these targets.”
With Sale FC hovering around the drop zone, they will definitely be up for Saturday’s fixture. Are you expecting a tough game at Heywood Road?
“I expect it to be a real battle, because Sale, as you say, are currently fighting for their lives. They have had a couple of injuries, and I believe they lost Chris Mayor with a broken jaw last Saturday, but you have to remember that their home form this year has been very, very good. They even rolled up at Stourbridge last weekend and beat them. So that tells you they are a good team and capable of beating anyone on their day.”
“We’ve got to make sure we’re not suffering any hangovers from last weekend, and stay focused. It’s a local derby, and we know them really well. They’ve got coaching staff and players who have a history with Macclesfield, and all of that for me suggests this will be a good game. Heywood Road is a great ground to play at, but if you’re not fully focused it’s an easy place to come unstuck at. So we’ve got to get our mindset right.”
Will the Cheshire Cup Final turn into a distraction, coming so soon before the Blues travel to Sale?
“It shouldn’t be a problem, as the squad we’ve used in this competition is predominantly made up of second team and fringe first team players. That was always the plan, once we factored in the weather and realised we would have to play this game midweek. There’s no disrespect to the Cheshire Cup Competition intended there: it’s just the nature of Club rugby. You have to look after the health and welfare of your players, and we know that trying to ask players to go out and perform twice on a 3-day turnaround would be asking too much.”