The season is almost upon us, and the excitement is starting to mount. Macclesfield Blues and Priory Park deserve National League 1 rugby, and pretty soon that’s exactly what they’ll get. Before that, however, there’s just the small matter of the Blues’ game against Sheffield Tigers at Priory Park this weekend. Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, is under no illusions that this game will be the most challenging so far in pre-season but he believes if you want to prove your worth in any competition you have to be prepared to step up and face those tough challenges. So how are preparations for the National 1 season going? Is everything on track? Here’s what Giles had to say.
Do you think the team is as well prepared now as you would’ve hoped?
“Well yes; I’d certainly like to think so. I’ve said this to you many times before that ideally you’d always like more time. However, we have to work within the parameters we’ve got. Having said that, I think we are in as good a place as we could be with 2 weeks til the season starts. The pre-season preparations have been excellent so far. Last weekend was great for us, but we know we’ve got a couple of tough games to come.”
“It’s going to be a busy week, what with the Lions playing at Wilmslow tonight, then they’re off to play Sandbach in the Cheshire Cup on Saturday. The Blues have got Sheffield Tigers at Priory Park this weekend, and we know that will present a very stern test. Those games should put us in very good stead going into the first game of the season at Esher. So yes; I think we’re OK.”
Did you manage to recruit all the players you wanted in the closed season, or did some slip through the net?
“I guess so. We missed out on a couple who said they were going to join us then changed their minds. That sort of thing is always frustrating, but at the same time we managed to secure the signings of a couple of players who said they weren’t going to come, but joined us never the less. We’ve managed to put together a very talented squad, and as a coach I know we’ve now got more strength in depth in nearly every position than I’ve ever seen before.”
“Yes, there are still one of two gaps that we’ve got to try to manage properly – certainly in the short term whilst we wait for injuries to come back – but I’m now in the position where I’ve got a headache when it comes to selection. That’s what every coach wants ideally. All the players now know that they have to perform well every single week, because if they don’t they’re not going to make the squad. That puts pressure on players to perform, and that’s what we want because ultimately this game is all about winning.”
Is the squad better able to cope this time around with the inevitable pressures and challenges that National League 1 rugby will throw at them?
“I think we are this time. We’re going in with our eyes open certainly. I’ve made a lot of changes over a short period of time, which I think will help us cope with the pressures. Changes to the management team and the way we run things off the field is very different to where we were two years ago: the way we’re now playing is also very different as players know exactly what’s expected of them. So I’d like to think they’re all very positive changes, and that we’re in a much better place than we were last time we played in National 1. I think we’re in a good place overall, but then again, ask me the same question at 5 o’clock on Saturday 3rd September, and I might well give you a different answer.”