THE RFU v CLUB RUGBY
There has been a lot of talk this season, both at Macclesfield and with the clubs that we play against in the North Premier, about the current level of support from the RFU. Feelings have recently been exacerbated by the large cuts to Championship clubs, although this has since been spread over a number of seasons. The serious cuts started last season for Macclesfield, with support for travelling expenses being slashed. The RFU’s cuts were, apparently, no way near enough. At the end of last season the RFU informed the clubs and constituent bodies of their new budget for season 2019/20. The cuts cut at every part of the game, except for the top three tiers and the RFU Council itself. In general these have been around 30% and 4G pitch investment with clubs suspended. For Macclesfield the second lot of cuts have been a double-whammy; fulfilling the fixture list in the north premier probably requires more travelling than any other league and yet the teams in this league are the least funded in the regions.
The cuts are also doubly frustrating for grass-roots clubs like Macclesfield, as on one hand the RFU takes away and at the same time enforces changes on the Club. To combat the cuts and buck the system most of the clubs in Cumbria have opted-out of the RFU’s league structure and formed their own league to restrict their travel expenses.
Media comment is constant with a consistent view that the RFU is self-serving, has a history of financial incompetency and is only interested in the Premiership. Some of the reported facts would bear this out: a £400,000 pay-off for their failed CEO; reinstated Directors’ bonuses, when at the same time cutting grass-roots rugby; a failure by the Council to restructure the Council from its oversized 55 members (they also voted not to cut their own overseas travel expenses to international fixtures); and what many see as the start of the problems, in a poorly negotiated and over-priced deal with the Premiership clubs.
Clubs in our league, like Rossendale, that have very restricted income streams, must be feeling the pinch, we wish them well. Thankfully Macclesfield is very well run with clear aims throughout the Club and operating well within its means. Hopefully the RFU can get back on track and put more money back into the grass-roots, their Twickenham heroes have to start somewhere – onwards and upwards!
OUT ON THE PITCH
On a stormy afternoon at Priory Park the fourth team progressed into the semi final of their cup competition with a good win over a strong and feisty Glossop side.
The third team were also at home, they had a strange encounter in their cup competition. The match kicked off but after only 20 minutes one of the Warrington payers suffered a horrendous injury, a dislocated patella. He couldn’t be moved until the ambulance arrived. The referee and captains came to the agreement to abandon the match. Seemingly under the competition rules if a game is abandoned then the visitors get the bye; scores at the time were Macclesfield 10 Warrington 12. Obviously everyone at the rugby club sends their best wishes to the injured player and hope he’ll be able to get back playing rugby as soon as possible.
The second team were away at Sedgley Park where they won 14-7, a very good result for Pete Langley’s side. Tom Leicester kicked three penalties and Joe Parker bagged a try. It was a cold blustery afternoon, and returning from the first team bench, Matt Thorpe and Phil Laing provided the go forward throughout the match. Line out men Sam Jones, James Brocklehurst and Matt Colgrave did great work disrupting the opposition ball. Dom Sheratte was Man of the Match for all his graft at set pieces and classy offloading in tight forward situations.
Our Seconds are developing to be a very efficient outfit, a tribute to the coaches; obviously most turn up to the senior squad sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays when Apps and Jonah put them through their drills helped by Langley who himself acts as manager during the matches.
Next Saturday the first team welcomes Blackburn to Priory Park. Their week off has given the team the opportunity for some serious stuff in the gym, and focusing of the mind after the loss to Sandal. Expect another big pack and muddy pitch, but no doubt we will have learnt a lesson since the home defeat. There will be a few changes as Sam Stelmaszek is with Poland, Jordon Simpson is unavailable and Billy Roberts is still recovering from his leg gash. Come and be our 16th man, we need to return to winning ways, come on lads!
Mighty Macc fourths march on of to semi finals
Macclesfield 4th 27 Glossop 3rd 21 points
On a soggy but playable pitch the fourth team continued their successful run of victories to qualify for the semi final of the Cup. This victory continues their winning momentum; since the New Year they have won five out of five with two postponed games due to storms Ciara and Dennis.
Glossop were doughty opposition, neither side backed down, there were three incidents which could have turned into mass brawls but actually petered out into rather tame hand-bagging incidents.
Macclesfield scored four tries, two of which Ryan Brown converted. Paul Smith crossed the line for the first after a full forward drive. Although the score didn’t open the floodgates as Glossop came back with two converted scores of their own. Next Nick Smith, in the centre this week, scored a fine individual effort. Scott Goodfellow, playing some of his best rugby for the fourth team, added another. At half time Macclesfield led by 17-14. In the second session it was difficult to decide who had the advantage of the strong wind; it was blowing diagonally, slightly in Macclesfield’s favour, so the 4ths had the majority of the territorial superiority, their big forwards keeping hold of possession. It became a test between the visitors younger speedy side versus the home team’s physically stronger combination.
Macclesfield’s giant locks were sorely missed, Captain Jeremy Bostock on a family holiday and Jack Nicholson hospitalised. Best wishes Jack for an early discharge. A further try by Scotty, who was unanimously acclaimed Man of the Match, gave some breathing space until Glossop broke the stranglehold and raced out of their 22 to score a converted try. Then Brown chipped over a tricky penalty to complete the scoring. It should be mentioned that 1st team Forwards’ Coach Rick Jones took the opportunity of a free weekend off the have a run-out for the 4th team, playing well until popping a rib.
Captain for the day Nick Smith was very happy; in the post match huddle he congratulated all 18 players. The semi final of the cup isn’t until early April against Preston Grasshoppers away, hopefully by then the absentees will be fit for the encounter. Macclesfield 4th team squad march triumphantly onward with the definite chance of silverware this season.
HARRY OLIVER FROM UNDER 6 TO ENGLAND
We’re delighted to profile one of our younger first teamers this week, 19 year old Harry Oliver, the son and grandson of former Macclesfield first team players. Harry gained selection for Macclesfield direct from the Colts team, alongside: Will Davies, Harry Harding and his twin brother James. He was introduced to rugby at the Under 6 level and played in every age group in the Mini and Junior sections, eventually emerging to be selected for Cheshire in the Under 14s; maintaining his selection in every age group up to the Under 20s, where he played with his other three Macclesfield team-mates. His talent was further noticed by the Selectors and he went on to represent the North of England and England Counties at Under 18 level, winning two caps.
When asked about his long-time team mate Harry Harding, he said that he had been the best captain he’s played with for stimulating and exhorting the team to make greater efforts on the pitch.
Harry attended Wilmslow High, where he captained the side playing at Outside Centre. He says he’s always played in the Number 13 shirt and loves being in the midfield, enjoying the extra space of the position and with the chances that gives to exploit his speed and agility. But outside centre isn’t only about attack; Harry has developed an excellent defensive game, which is often needed against much bigger opposition in senior rugby.
He trains Mondays and Wednesdays in the gym and is one of the hardest workers in the Club’s Tuesday and Thursday squad sessions. His routine after Saturday’s matches is to relax his tired muscles in the swimming pool for an hour or so.
Playing for the first team often involves travelling great distances to away venues; and the first introduction to the long away trips was very much an eye-opener for the 18 year old. Now he’s an enthusiastic ‘joiner-in’ with the singing and practical jokes on the coach journey home. All these activities have been a part of rugby lore and it’s all in the attraction of the brotherhood of team-bonding.
Outside of rugby he plays cricket for Bramhall with twin brother James in the summer months and occasionally golf at Davenport, he also follows the fortunes of City but is obviously unable to watch them except for on TV. He describes himself as a ground worker in construction; next year he’s hoping to gain an apprenticeship as a joiner or plumber.
Keith Oliver, Harry’s Grandfather, played for Macclesfield during the 1960s, 70s and 80s, with Harry’s father Rob, continuing in the 1980s and beyond. Rob was himself a fleet-of-foot Full Back and Centre and also selected for England Colts. Three generations of the Oliver family have enjoyed playing for the Club, so far spanning 60 years, and are always there to support, home and away, including Granma and Mum proudly watching Harry and James do their stuff every match.