If it’s challenging us as a rugby squad; hopefully it will challenge the opposition as well.

Pre-season training is well under way as Macclesfield Blues prepare for the new season ahead and gear up for the return of National League 1 rugby to Priory Park. The Blues’ experience of this league last time round was disappointing, but they will have learned from that bitter experience. But what new challenges will the Blues face this season? Do they have a sufficiently strong squad to cope with the physical demands in a semi-professional rugby league? The only person who could possibly answer that is Head Coach, Giles Heagerty. Here are Giles’ thoughts on the subject.

What new challenges do you think the players will face this season?

“Clearly one of the biggest challenges we’ll face is the extra travelling, but that’s a common obstacle for everyone in the league. In terms of playing challenges, I think we’re going to have to use our brains a lot more to get around and compete with some of the teams. We’re also going to have to front up physically in every game, regardless of the opposition.”

“I’m not suggesting for one moment that we didn’t do that last season; it’s just that the mentality with which you have to approach the game in National 1 is a little bit different. In National 2 you could kind of afford to have an off day, but that simply isn’t the case in this league. Every member of the match day 20 knows they’ll have to switched-on for the full 80 minutes and understands they’ll have to do their jobs to the best of their ability every week without fail.”

“It’s going to be mentally tough for the players this season asking them to perform week-in, week- out at this higher level, and that’s why we’ve increased the depth of the squad. In my opinion no- one should be asked to start 30 games in this league as the physical and mental demands are too onerous particularly for part-time and amateur players. So with the added squad depth we hope to make the players’ lives that little bit easier, and hopefully that will help them cope with the new challenges they’ll face.”

The Blues’ last experience at this level didn’t end as you would’ve liked: do you think the team are better equipped this time to cope with the demands of National 1 rugby?

“Although it was an awful experience at the time, in hindsight I think it was probably the best experience we could’ve gone through as a group. It made us focus collectively on those aspects of rugby that we needed to address and improve on both on and off the field. I think we’ve done that very well, and we’ll continue to do that over the course of the season.”

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that this time round we’re much better equipped to deal with the challenges posed by National 1 rugby. Off the field the infrastructure is sound: on the field we’ve got a much deeper and more experienced squad and that should make all the difference.”

Your playing philosophy last season was to aim to improve and develop with every game played: will the same ethos apply this year too?

“Oh definitely – 100 per cent. We’re about to start our attack block in pre-season, and we’ll be trying a few new things which will challenge them as players and give them an indication of the nature of what we’re going to be doing in National 1. We’ll set new challenges every week, and it’s the job of the players to meet those challenges. As far as I’m concerned that can only be a good thing. Of course if it’s challenging us as a squad; hopefully it will challenge the opposition as well.”

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