There was definitely a festive air at Priory Park for the last matches before Christmas, the Clubhouse was beautifully decorated with the tree at the side of the bar setting the atmosphere. This year the lounge areas have undergone a makeover and the appearance of the Spiral Lounge looks marvellous. Before the upgrade this small bar seemed to be used by few people whilst the main area was used by the players and supporters.
The renovation work was nearly all done by volunteers: Sam Moss, 1st team hooker and bespoke joiner did all the carpentry work, freely donating his time and energy; Dave Teale did the structural beams and brickwork demolition. The decoration was done by members on Sunday morning working parties under the supervision of Jim Jennings, who has master-minded most of the work, and inspiring others. The result is a startling transformation.
Phase 2 is the new lift which has now been installed and improvements to the toilet areas and changing rooms is still ongoing. Funding for these projects has been through members donations and fundraising, last week’s Christmas lunch providing a massive boost. All this work has meant bookings for the Priory Suite have quadrupled, which makes Treasurer Peter White’s job much happier easier in balancing the books.
Of course we’ve been aided by good results on the field, club skipper Tom Morton and vice captain Mossy are not complacent, but it’s obvious that they and the rest of the first team squad are enjoying their rugby much more this season. The coaching team of Andy Appleyard, Head Coach, Rick Jones, Forwards Coach, Matt Coleridge Performance Analyst, Jason Curtis the strength and conditioning coach and Pete Langley second XV Coach are happy about the style of the play and looking forward to the second-half of the season.
Mike Carolan is Head of Sports Science and Medicine, he has a team of Physios to guide our players when they’re unlucky enough to suffer injuries. Mike’s setup has a strong Salford University bias with graduates, second and third year students plying their skills to get players back on the pitch and playing again. There are few things more frustrating for sportsmen than missing out because of long term injuries, the sooner you’re back into the fray the better for all concerned. It’s Mike’s team who manage and manipulate us to top fitness.
The coaching staff has a wonderfully thorough methodology, Apps and Jonah have a development plan not just for the team but for each individual. They analyse the video with Coleridge and pinpoint all the strengths which can be exploited advantageously in the next match. The weaknesses are tirelessly worked on during the following weeks on the training field to get ironed out and rectified. Only last week the second team had a huge compliment from Caldy 2nds; our line outs were slick and smooth, we won all our own throws and stole 6 of theirs. This level of efficiency is only achieved by practice and diligence during many sessions on Tuesdays and Thursday evenings.
The gates are noticeably better now and the spectators give good voice as they enjoy flowing rugby. Clubman was talking to a Sale Rugby Club season ticket holder who informed him that the atmosphere at Priory Park is so much more inspiring than at Heywood Road where their ground is – and Sale are two divisions higher than us.
Saturday was a blank day for the firsts and third teams but the second and fourth were at home. They were helped by the cheers from the many first teamers who showed up to applaud their mates in these sides.
The seconds beat Rossendale 13-5 in a tough bruising encounter; Pete Langley was delighted. He said during the post match huddle, what a great all round team effort it had been. There was a period of 7 minutes when two Macclesfield players were in the sin bin with only 13, we didn’t concede a single point and actually kicked a penalty to increase our lead; this was significant, because it would be normally expected that 15 against 13 a couple of tries would be scored. Langley said it was testament to the side’s togetherness, with the ferocity of tackling rucking and defending that we were successful.
Jake Robinson was once again in great form scoring the important first half try, every week he seems to improve and in the back row. Owen Jones was man of the match, he even kicked a difficult penalty, our normal kicker being in the bin. Ross Turner once again threw in impeccably always hitting his target jumper.
The fourth team were not too downhearted to lose after five successive wins. Ashton under Lyme were a well organised and disciplined side, not unexpected as they are a second team and always train with their own firsts. Our fourth team by comparison work out most of their moves during the 45 minute warm up, during the pre match!
The 4ths is a mixture of Vets and younger men, they have plenty in their 40s; actually apart from Jack Pearce all the forwards and half backs this week were over forty five.
They’re proud that they want to play enjoyable social rugby, most have some personal training programme but they rarely get together to work out moves. There’s good and bad here, the individuals are not tied to regular squad sessions but on the other hand newcomers to our club haven’t got an introduction, they are just catapulted straight into matches without any formal preparation. It could be hoped that the walking rugby on Thursdays could partially fill this void.
This decade for MRUFC has been very successful. We’ve played several seasons in the third tier of English rugby, although advanced professionalism in the game meant that this couldn’t be sustained. As Chairman Stephen Branch keeps stating our aim is to be a happy, successful and sustainable club at the centre of the community – across the age groups from Under 6s to the 4th team, the women, touch and walking rugby. We will aim to play at the highest level we can achieve within our financial means.
Above all play, coach and support the club according to the club’s values – teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship.
A Happy Christmas to everyone inside and outside of Macclesfield Rugby Club.