The last pre-season game against Sheffield Tigers last weekend at Priory Park may not have ended with victory for Macclesfield Blues, but the team gave a good account of itself, losing narrowly with the last play of the game. Any disappointments, however, were quickly dealt with by both the players and the coaching staff, and thoughts then turned to the real start of business next weekend when the Blues kick off their National League 1 campaign away at Esher. What’s Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, view of pre-season? What are the team’s expectations for the National 1 season and are the team fully prepared and ready to go? Here’s what Giles had to say.
How did Saturday’s game against Sheffield Tigers go?
“We expected a tough game, and Sheffield duly obliged. They’re a tough physical side and they showed that. We lost the game narrowly 28-27 and I feel we let ourselves down a bit mentally. We lost the game with the last play of the game, having had several opportunities to put it to bed. But never the less we’ve learned from the experience.”
“You could see from the players’ expressions after the game just how disappointed they were with the result, and like I said to the boys afterwards, that was probably the best thing we got out of it. That level of disappointment just shows the high levels of expectation that the players have placedon themselves. From a coaching point of view it was still a successful exercise and we still got a lot out of the game, but like I said to the players we need to remember that this was a pre-season friendly game, so there’s no need to panic.”
Is it better to face these disappointments sooner rather than later when it really matters?
“Well, yes I think it is, but the important thing we took from the game is that we were able to field 24 players in total and that allowed us to see a lot of players in live fire. That’s very important in my mind. The end result of that is that we’ve got a much clearer idea of where we are as we approach the start of the league campaign this weekend.”
Do you think the team is prepared and ready to go this Saturday?
“I think so. Pre-season has been very tough, but it’s been good. The boys have really worked hard and put in a shift. You often worry that holidays might get in the way or disrupt preparations at this time in the year, but I don’t think that’s really been an issue this time round. We had a couple of injuries coming into pre-season and we’ve picked up a couple more since, but that’s the nature of the beast. But all in all we’re as ready as we could be going into the season, and we can’t wait to get our campaign up and running.”
What are you expecting from Esher?
“It’s difficult to say at this stage really. I know they’ve had a change in coaching staff with Mike Smith going. It’s hard to say what to expect. All I do know is that it’s always a tough place to go to. It’s a big wide pitch that suits expansive rugby, and if your defence is slack they’ll inevitably make you pay the price.”
“They’ve got a good squad, but they also always have 2 or 3 stand out players, so we know they’ll be good and will challenge us. I know they finished 7 th last year, but I’m pretty sure they’ll have expectations of finishing higher this season – as everybody does. As with all things though, we can only control how we prepare going into the weekend. We’ll get ourselves mentally prepared for the challenge ahead over the next couple of sessions, and I’m confident we’ll travel down there in the right frame of mind to do a job.”
You mentioned injuries, how do things currently stand?
“Paul Mellier has had surgery on a hernia. He got the injury coming into pre-season so hasn’t yet trained, but he’s on the road to recovery I’m pleased to say. Lewis Barker has had a knee injury which he’s had repaired. He started straight-line running last week, so things are looking good there. We picked up one other injury last weekend, but I’m not sure about the severity of it. Hopefully we’ll know a little more about that tonight. Other than that I think we’re looking pretty good.”