The Senior Colts at Macclesfield Rugby Club have, this term, had their best ever season under Team Manager and Coach, George Edwards. However, George has now decided to step away from the frontline and pass the baton on to successors. Taking charge of the Senior Colts next season will be Tony King and Robert Oliver. Both of the coaches have a fine Macclesfield Rugby pedigree, so we can rest assured that the future of the Senior Colts side is in good hands.
But, what plans have they got for the team for next term? What’s their rugby philosophy, and what are they hoping to achieve when they take the helm? We caught up with Robert Oliver to get the answer to those very questions. Here’s what Robert had to say:
How did you get involved with Macclesfield Rugby Club?
“Tony [King] and I have been involved at Macclesfield Rugby Club for the last 11 or 12 years, coaching the young lads from the age of 5 up to 17. Tony’s lad plays at the Club, as do my 2 twin boys. At the start of last season, we were struggling with the Colts, as the senior side didn’t have enough players and the junior side couldn’t guarantee numbers because of school/ college and Sale and Cheshire Rugby commitments. That’s when we took the decision to merge the teams. I decided to take a break then, as there were far too many coaches, and my presence on the side lines felt somewhat superfluous. Now I’m glad to be getting back into the thick of things and am looking forward to coaching the Senior Colts next season with Tony.”
What’s your philosophy on Colts’ rugby?
“As far as I’m concerned, Colt’s rugby is all about the transition from junior rugby into senior rugby. As a Club, we have to make sure we transition those players into the 3rds and 4ths at senior levels to allow the younger players to enhance their game and provide the Club with a constant stream of fresh and eager senior talent. What we want to do next season is to develop the players and make the transition into senior rugby much easier and more seamless for them.”
“The philosophy doesn’t just apply on the pitch as I’m concerned: it applies off it too. When we looked at the players in the second team, we noticed that there’s quite a number of regimented procedures that have to happen in training and in preparation for games. What I want to do is to prepare the younger players for the transition into that more ‘professional’ senior environment.”
“Having said all that, what we will never do is to change our basic philosophy of inclusivity to facilitate the transition to senior rugby. All players are treated equally, regardless of ability. At the end of the day its’ all about going out there on the pitch, trying your best and, above all, having fun. What I want the lads to do is to look back on their time in 10-years’ time or so, and look over to me and Tony and say, we had a lots of fun with them and we enjoyed it. If they’re still playing rugby then, great: if they’re not, then that’s great too.”
What are you looking to do with the Colts next season?
“Well, we’ll work on what I’ve already talked about and prepare the lads for rugby at a more senior level. We’ll also integrate some of the Under 16s players into the group to join our existing 17 and 18-year-olds. What we’ll try to do is mirror the senior sides, and the play the game in the way they try to. Admittedly, there is an argument to say that because our existing Senior Colt’s side isn’t the biggest side in the world, we can’t necessarily play in exactly the same way. Because of the size of our team we’ve been forced to play a fast game: if we’d tried to stand toe-to-toe with some of the bigger teams, there’s a chance we’d have just been bullied off the park.”
“Still, our style of play has served us well. We play the game and only attack off 3rd and 4th phase ball. What matters for me is how you generate that 3rd and 4th phase ball. Once you done that you can then create mismatches all over the field, and punish opponents. That philosophy has worked for us over the last four or five years, and we’ve won 2 or 3 Cheshire Cups. So it’s been pretty successful. We’ve currently got 6 lads trialling with Sale Sharks, and whether they get in or not, you have to respect how far we’ve come as a team and a Club.”
Are you planning on keeping the Senior Colts in the B league, or are you planning on throwing them into the A league?
“It would be difficult to step up a league and mount a sustained and consistent assault on the A league. We’ve probably got a core of around 7 or 8 players who are of County standard. Whilst that’s great, you have to appreciate that those 7 or 8 players are going to Wilmslow High School, Kings’ School or Kirkham Grammar, so they’ll be playing school rugby on Wednesday and Saturday pretty much every week up until Christmas, Then, after Christmas they’ll potentially be playing for Cheshire Under 18s and for the North of England Under 18s. So they’d only be available for us periodically. Will Davis, for instance, has been at the Club since he was 5, but in the season just gone he only played 1 game for Macclesfield because of his involvement with Kings School, Cheshire, the North of England and Sale Sharks Academy.”
“The lads that are left at the Club, will be the ones who’ll play the bulk of the games. Sadly, if you take a rump of your best players out of the equation, you’ll be left with a very competent side, but not necessarily a side capable of sweeping all before them in a higher league. It’s not only that which concerns me though. If we’ve got a group of 22 or so players playing week-in, week-out, and suddenly we got 5 or 6 County players available for a few matches, I don’t feel it’s right or fair to automatically put them in the side at the expense of the regulars who served us well. If that does happen and we do get some players back, both Tony and I feel these players would be better served turning out for the senior sides on Saturdays and leave the Colts as they are.”