At 6.00pm on Friday, the evening before the game, Macclesfield’s fourth team captain Ryan Brown received a message from their opponents, Ashton on Mersey, saying that 12 of their 15 players were going to Old Trafford to watch the Rugby League Cup Final. Brown generously offered to rearrange the fixture; he could have claimed the league points by default!
This is the mantra of the 4th team: to enjoy their rugby playing enthusiastically and with an appreciation of their opposition. They love their on-field participation, and the ‘craic’, in both the dressing room and clubhouse bar.
Therefore many of them turned up to encourage the home sides, with Vice Captain Jeremy Bostock, ‘guesting’ for the third team. Those players that did meet-up, were delighted at the news of their back-row colleague Jack Pearce, getting selected for his England call-up. Alongside the World Cup being played in Japan, the England Visually Impaired Six are involved in a three-match series against a Japanese Six. Pearce suffers from Albinism and whilst he retains some tunnel-vision his peripheral vision is limited; he has a range of about 25 metres. Jack is fortunate, because he is able to see well enough to play normal rugby, and is a valued member of the fourth-team. The ball used, has a sound-emitting device for the players to locate its whereabouts.
The England Visually Impaired Six is coached by former Bath and England back row, and ex England Coach Andy Robinson. His own father was blind; therefore his sympathies for the visually impaired.
Brown and Bostock, who jointly organised the 4th team, are delighted with the progress this season. They have recruited well; one newcomer to the Macclesfield area, Jack Nicholson, has made an enormous impact to the forwards, he’s massive at 6’5″ and is difficult to tackle, a very good ball carrier and is scoring plenty of tries.
But Nicholson isn’t an entire one-man forward pack, Mike Dale, Rufus Dixon and Jason Walker make-up a reliable and belligerent front row. Jim Welch, unfortunately occasionally unavailable due to his pilot duties, loves locking the pack, alongside Jack, and this season Bostock has moved to flanker where Kieran Merriman, Matt Price and Lewis Smith also play.
In the backs: Paul Smith at Scrum-half, Jordan Wilson and Brown, ever-present, and the remainder, players of the quality of Nick Smith, James Parsons and Rick Hogg alternate.
The side will travel to Burnage on Saturday, wanting to maintain their string-of-victories. In the league table, the team has an enormous point advantage, thanks at large to their wonderful win over Marple two weeks ago.