We spoke to Giles Heagerty about his thoughts on last season, his hopes for this season and the positive future he sees for Macclesfield Rugby Club.
We’re two games into the new season now, have you had time to reflect on last season and the impact it had on the team?
Completely! Last season is what it is. But we’ve learned so much from our experience last year.
National 1 is the most competitive league in the country. There’s lots of money knocking around. There are the haves and have nots, including six full time teams in a semi professional league.
Looking back now, we were not far off. When I watch our games, I see so much that was really positive. And other teams saw that too, we had teams coming up to us after matches and saying, “What are we doing at the bottom of the table?”
We can’t get away from the results, but we do have great playing quality and I think we make as good a use of the resources as we possibly can. That’s what makes us so determined this year. And National 2 has advanced again from where we were two years ago. Games will be hard for players and the back room staff too. But we are up for the challenge. If it’s hard work for the players it’s hard for back room staff as well.
My thanks and respect goes to all of them for the work last season, and to everyone who works so tirelessly to make sure we can put twenty guys out every weekend. We’ve always got improvements to make, but we have a great bunch of guys working together to put those improvements into place.
What’s the one thing we’ve learnt from last season?
To have more fun. Simple as that. We need to enjoy rugby again.
Anyone who’s been involved in rugby at any level knows that it’s the love of the game that keeps us all going. We need to make sure we love going out there every weekend and that we enjoy playing the great sport.
We talked very openly as a team about last year. We were on a relentless quest. And at times it wasn’t enjoyable. The pressure was huge, and it was thankless and tough.
One of the many lessons we are taking forward is, lets make sure we have fun, do ourselves justice, on and off the pitch, and at the end of the game, have a beer with each other and the oppo and know that we have enjoyed our Saturday of Rugby and have given enjoyment to all our supporters who are watching us.
What changes took place in the off season?
There’s plenty of things we learned, on top of the need to enjoy our rugby, and we are putting things into practice this year. I’m not going to go into full details and disclose all our plans, but we’ve addressed some issues. There are still things we can improve on, but we are moving forward well.
One thing I’ve made no secret of, is that I’m keen on giving players ownership of what we do. We’ve tried to put the onus on them on-field. We’ve made changes and evaluated what we are doing and how we play, but I want the players to take the responsibility for stepping up, and I’m happy to say that they really are.
Off-field it’s the same too. We want ownership to be everyone’s at the club, from the coaching and medical staff through to the members who turn up to watch. Ownership means all of us having the responsibility to improve as a club at all levels.
It’s early days, but what are you thoughts for the coming season?
Like I said earlier, National 2 has improved in the last couple of years, and there are going to be some good games ahead of us. It’s going to be great to come up against some of our neighbours, and there are a few local derby’s against people we know very well coming up. It’s a bit like playing against old rugby friends and there’s some excitement about that amongst the team.
But we are holding back on looking too far ahead. The players came to me this season and said that their goal this year was to win the next game we are playing. It’s an old cliche, but sports teams all over forget that need to focus on games one at a time. Do that, and the players know we will be in great shape. It is a good way of relieving the pressure and making sure we are completely focussed and ready for every game.
We are on track to play this weekend, and right now, that’s all we are going to focus on.
What are you most looking forward to this year at Macclesfield Rugby Club?
Working with great people. The guys are work with are superb, from the team members backroom staff, management committee and all the members. The backroom staff particularly are very supportive to me, and I enjoy working with them. They really go above and beyond to make sure the playing staff.
Rugby clubs survive on volunteers, and it’s the volunteers who pull together and make everything happen for us. We have a good time, but our volunteers are extremely professional and their work ethic is amazing. It’s better than I’ve seen in some professional environments.
What about you personally? How do you see role in the club?
I’ve come across people in the past who view coaching as a simple task – your job is to put out a team every week and win! For me, it’s so much more than that. Coaching is about development. It’s also about developing players and developing our playing groups. And that’s not just my job, the whole team do that. Our analysis has really helped us do that. It is genuinely cutting edge, and applying it helps us to prepare, review and develop
My role isn’t just to turn up on a Tuesday and Thursday and focus then turn out on a Saturday. It’s to support the entire club, because the first team is only as good as the club that supports it. I’m heavily involved in the second team and selection for all the teams. One of the challenges we have looked at this year is extended a watching programme to see what’s going on with the threes and fours, vets and the senior colts. To make sure we understand each other’s playing philosophy. So that if and when their is transition, our guys can do it seamlessly.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned since you joined Macclesfield Rugby Club?
I learned lots working with Geoff and Andy at the beginning. They had great success and I had a fantastic two years working with them. Taking on the role myself, I’ve learned so much, and the club has evolved to. I have a view on how we should play and what our playing philosophy should be, and it’s been great to see our outlook and ethos has really developed as we’ve grown. Personally I’ve got a much better understanding of running a rugby club. There’s more work to do. But we are getting there. I really think we are moving in a great direction and developing how we play as a club.
Where do you see the future of Macclesfield Rugby? Is National 1 possible again?
Haha! I’m not going to get drawn into predictions, but we have some exciting things ahead as a club. We are waiting to see if we getting planning permission to expand. My view is, that if you are going to have a championship level facility, we need to play championship level rugby. But it’s got to be a club wide philosophy.
I’m not going to name names, but there are plenty of clubs out there I’ve seen who don’t understand that being in National 1 is not just a first team achievement. It comes from the whole club. Which is why it’s so important to invest in success and sustainability.
We have a fantastic club, great support and exciting potential. But it’s only with the hard work of everyone at the club that we can really grow and expand as we want. And for us that starts this weekend at home against Blaydon!
Macclesfield next home game is 16th September at home to Blaydon, K.O. 3pm