The National 1 season may only just have ended, but Head Coach, Giles Heagerty, has already started making preparations for next season’s National 2 North campaign. There will be changes in personnel over the coming weeks and changes in the way Macclesfield Blues approach game days, but more on the personnel changes at a later date. This week Giles addresses the issues of playing styles and why the Blues need to add more flexibility to their game plan.
You said last week that the success or failure of next season’s campaign will be depend on our ability to adapt both on and off the field: can you clarify what you meant by that?
“Dealing with the question on the field is probably the easiest place to start. I’ve talked a lot over the last 2 or 3 years about having flexibility in our game plan. There’s also been a lot of comment in the press from Eddie Jones and other high profile coaches about the issue of concentrating too much on structured training in northern hemisphere rugby. They’re all calling for a more flexible approach on the rugby field, and that’s one the adaptations I feel we need to make. Obviously you need some structure, particularly in first phase rugby and the set piece, but once the first contact or line break is made, the structure of the game becomes more fluid by definition.”
“Macclesfield Blues are pretty good in terms of our ability in broken play, but where we need to improve is in the transition phase from structured play to a more fluid game. The same applies in reverse too. We need to be able to transition from fluid play to structure, particularly when things are getting a little chaotic on the field. We need to be able to calm things down and revert to a more structured game plan when needs must.”
Can that ability be coached, or is it more down to natural instinct?
“I think it can be coached, and I feel it’s all about the on-field environment you create and the challenges you give to your players. Obviously those challenges will only work if they are backed up by good core skills levels, and to that end we’ve identified some areas where we need to make further improvements. We worked on some of these areas last season, and as they got better we got better. The work on core skills will continue over the summer so that we have the necessary variability and flexibility in our game in place for the next campaign.”
What about off the field? What needs to be adapted there?
“We’ve been relegated from National 1 and lost one or two experienced players from the squad. We’ll have new players coming in, but that’s something we’ll have to manage carefully. There’s also some fluidity regarding our infrastructure at the moment as we wait to find out whether or not we get planning permission for a new development. The most important thing off the field is that we play within our means. Obviously that creates issues around player recruitment and retention. We’ll all have to tighten our belts and stay within our budget. In an ideal world we would all prefer to live in the moment, but we have to be realistic and look at the bigger picture objectively. It’s not just next season we’re now looking at, but the potential of the Club over the next 2 or 3 years.”
You also said last week that there are 1 or 2 things the Blues will need to do better next season: what areas were you referring to specifically?
“I mentioned last week that we don’t really have a kicking game to speak of. It’s important that we address that failure. We also need to brace up defensively. There is no hiding from the fact that we were dreadful in this regard last season. When you’re conceding 37 points a game, then something is seriously wrong. We also need to tighten up and address how we start to get more front foot ball off our first phase. Individually one or two players need to start making improvements in their game. I’ve already spoken to these players and suggested ways they can work on these skills in the off-season and in pre-season.”