Blues Media Liaison Matt Coleridge managed grab a few minutes with Head Coach Giles Heagerty, in-between training sessions with the first team, to get his thoughts on the coming season.
How is pre-season coming along?
“We are pleased with where we are at this point, numbers have been good, numbers have been good, and the boys have worked hard. We have had two very clear themes to work on during the course of pre-season, we’ve one in place and we are just starting to look at the second now, and the boys have picked up the points fairly quickly.”
Youthful look to the squad, is that a breath of fresh air, to work with younger players?
“We have always operated with a fairly young squad, we are at a point where we had a number of players transition out of the squad for one reason or another, and you have start bringing guys through to bolster that, the idea is not just to look at this season but 3 or 4 seasons down the line and get guys who are going to stay for a while, and build a team around them.”
Does the age of squad affect how you approach pre-season, or the pace you go at or is it just sink or swim out there?
“I think it’s the old Alex Ferguson adage ’If you’re good enough you’re old enough’, I think the young guys are pushing a lot of the older guys at the moment and the older guys have responded well. We have always been very keen on managing the player load, particularly those guys who are more senior in terms of their number of minutes and national league caps and the cheshire guys didn’t come back in to the rotation again until last week so we are looking after people, and there are a couple of guys are carrying a niggle or two that we have to manage accordingly and we know that but it gives some of the younger lads a bit more exposure than perhaps they wouldnt have had which is good as it means we get to see them under pressure and they seem to have responded quite well to that.”
After having members of the group that have experienced going up and down at least once was it necessary to bring in some young blood, players who may not have been, for want of a better word, scarred?
“Interesting question, theres no doubt that the experience we had last year was difficult when you compare it to to the last time we were relegated, because we had so many games where people said ‘you played some really good rugby and you deserve to be in National One’, but clearly we weren’t good enough to be N1 because were got relegated but I think it was so frustrating because there were only a few points games where you could say ‘we are struggling here’ but otherwise were really competitive. What we need across the group is a slight change in mentality now, as to how we approach things and I include myself and the coaching staff in that and I think the addition of some young guys will help with that transition in mentality.”
With pre-season how do you determine managing fitness and rugby and also how do you determine what you should be doing in a pre-season? Does each year you do one determine the next time or affect your ability to judge where the players are at?
“Yeah, I’ve been doing this for ten years and I used to be a great believer in just flogging people until they’re sick but actually, there has been a lot written about this but, you need the ball in hand from minute one. The boys have actually come back fit, so they have been taking care of their cardiovascular. I’ve never really seen it as my responsibility or our responsibility, which ever club I have been at, to make people cardiovascular fit or aerobically fit, its our job to make them an-aerobically or match fit because we don’t have the time to send people out on long runs and nor should we. What we need to concentrate on is certain themes like we are currently. Every year is an evolution and it has to be an evolution otherwise you are standing still, there are certain things you come back to because some of the old ways are the best in terms of getting people fit, match however you want to describe it, but I think each year you listen to new ideas and come up with new ideas, whether it be from players or staff and I have spent a lot of time in the off season speaking to people, doing research and picking up a few new ideas, and I think they are starting to come to fruition.”
You have a few trialists out there; do you just want to see how they go in a game before making a decision on any of them?
“Because we have done a lot of game related stuff in practice we know a lot about people already, yes you need to see them in some live fire which we will get a week on Saturday and then the games come thick and fast, before you know it the season is upon us, we are a month away and I think we know pretty much where we are and it will be good to get the first hit-out out the way’.”
Have you got a starting XV in mind for Wharfdale at home or as you well know a lot can happen in those friendlies and people may put their hands up?
“I have always maintained, I will always maintain that pre-season, the new season, is a blank sheet and while there are a number of players who have put their hands up and you would expect them to put their hands up, there are also others who brought some surprises and I think there will be some surprises not only for that first game of the season but throughout the season. You have to give everyone a fair crack of the whip. Yes there are a number of players with some credit in the bank because we know what they are capable of but at the same time they need to demonstrate they are still capable of operating at the required level and if they’re not then they now know they have people chomping at their heels and ready to get in the mix.”
Not all the recent transfers have been announced publicly just yet, and they will be shortly, but are there more transfers to be made?
“We are still in discussion with a number of players.”
Is Captain for the season decided?
“Yep, Ryan [Parkinson] is going to continue in that capacity having done a good job last year, and I’ve asked Tom Mantell to continue as Vice-Captain, and he is going to be helped by Max Smith and Lewis Barker, so that’s our leadership team for this season.”
When Ryan Parkinson was asked about being named Captain again, for the 2017-18 season, he responded, “I am very excited to be named Captain again for the coming season. We have a great set of boys here and I’m looking forward to seeing us challenge for the league title again this season.”
It sounds like Giles and the coaches are putting the lads through their paces and having the squad leadership infrastructure in place already means the side is coming together nicely. Further details of the club’s summer recruitment campaign and the new first team shirt will be made public in the coming weeks so keep your eyes on social media for updates, and Blues TV will be airing their annual season preview at the end of the month. Details of the pre-season games have been made public via social media but the first run out is at Priory Park on the 12th August in a round robin tournament with Redingensians, local rivals Caldy and Sedgley Park, kicking off at 14:30, so please come down for an early peak of the lads.
It’s going to be another great adventure following the Blues this year so let’s all get behind the boys and enjoy some quality rugby, at our great club. Come on you Blues #backingmacc