The Macclesfield faithful will have been disappointed to read the news on Saturday morning that all games at Priory Park were cancelled. Even though a few tonnes of sand had been spread onto the already very soggy pitch, the damage had already been done. A 9.00 am pitch inspection by the referee confirmed that the pitch was un playable; the February storms and a night of more rain had robbed us of any rugby at Priory Park.
The pre match lunch still went ahead and 80 members and guests enjoyed wonderful hospitality. Afterwards club Chairman Stephen Branch responded to Q&A session from MC David Wilkinson. On the questions of Leadership, Teamship and Partnership, the Chairman told the assembly of the members that had stepped forward to lead the various initiatives at the Club pulling everyone together to help achieve our objectives; and to exist not just for the four senior teams but to include all age groups from Under 6 through every year, the juniors and Colts as well as the newly formed Women’s Section. He went on to talk about future developments including more floodlighting and the creation of more playing surfaces.
Later in the day it was learnt that leaders Blaydon had succumbed to Sandal 51-5, Sandal swapping places with Macclesfield, fifth to third. With a game in hand Macclesfield still has the opportunity of a grandstand finish to the end of the season with; but there are another 6 games to go before then, starting next Saturday at the furthest northern rugby club playing in England, Alnwick.
On Sunday two of the Club’s junior players progressed their careers being capped for Lancashire against Yorkshire on Keithly’s artificial pitch. These two outstanding Junior Colts qualify for Lancs because both attend Myerscough College, Preston. They have been coached all the way at MRUFC from U6 through to U17, a credit to the Club and the coaches. Whilst they went down, in a close encounter 29-22, Max playing at 7 scored the first try and number 12 Louis tackled hard all day.
THROUGH THE TEAMS
Pete Langley 2nd team Coach and Manager says the team are very well placed in Conference B. His stand-out performers have been Giles Heatherington and Peter Milne, Captain Sam Jones is making good calls keeping the side motivated allowing no complacency to creep in. Langley did say injuries to Pete Hardwick, James Cross and Dom Sherratt had hampered development, but Tom Leicester, James Brocklehurst and the two Harrys, Grant and King had been more than adequate replacements, stepping up from the thirds.
Pete says he is delighted with the team: “The forwards always look good, their line out drills and forceful scrummaging make them a formidable combination”. He’s very positive about our chances of heading this division at the end of the season. He also loves the university boys returning to the fold at vacation times, this keeps them in touch with the Club and if they don’t necessarily return to the Macclesfield locality they will continue their rugby enjoyment wherever they choose to live.
Third Team Manager Simon Grant has an infectious optimism, but he acknowledges the often difficult position of the third team; the seconds are an ambitious squad who wish to maximise their success and such can often call on his players; furthermore Granty wants his players to move to a higher standard of rugby.
The fourth team is a sociable set up whereby their players enjoy that standard without the pressures of being promoted to the thirds. This means Simon is often struggling to field a team with substitutes however he has fulfilled all their fixtures and managed some outstanding victories, in itself a triumph as he’s usually struggling on a Friday night and Saturday morning when one or two of his men cry off.
The team always plays with great spirit and determination; the forwards again well organised and the backs playing their own, fast, Barbarians style of rugby.
IT’S ALL IN THE CARDS!
That’s been the critical business of the Club’s Disciplinary Officer, Jim Curtis, reducing the number of cards totted-up across the many teams at Macclesfield Rugby Club. In recent seasons we have not had a very good record, receiving too many red cards and incurring the wrath of Cheshire Rugby. Usually cards have been issued to our players for non violent reasons, like last season one was for preventing quick penalties or a second deliberate knock on. Nevertheless in a totting up process we had our knuckles rapped with the threat of a points deduction being made against the first team unless we mended our ways.
This season Curtis has turned poor discipline around, so far none of our players have seen a red brandished – a great improvement.
Jim has a strong Scottish rugby heritage, originally from Morayshire before moving to Glasgow and playing for West of Scotland, he joined West as a 10 year old from a non rugby school and was coached by British and Irish Lions Gordon Brown and Sandy Carmichael making his first team debut at age 17. At 24 he relocated and joined London Scottish a side which included 8 internationals including Gavin Hastings, Derek White and Paul Burrell. They were an excellent team and even better at the 7-a-side game winning the Middlesex and Rosslyn Park 7s’ as well as the Berkshire Bowl – actually winning 8 separate top-class, seven a side tournaments.
After a short spell at Marlow RFC he moved to Sweden, when rugby there had only just been introduced, playing and coaching for a few years, then when Astra and Zeneca merged he moved to the Alderley Park site and joined MRUFC now aged 45. A Macclesfield he and ‘Fred’ Taylor managed, coached and played for our second team for many very successful seasons winning their league on numerous occasions.
Now alongside Andy McLean and Joe Saunders he coaches our under 13s and assists Andy Appleyard and Rick Jones with the senior squad sessions every Tuesday and Thursday evening. At 59 he’s still a registered player and has played 10 games for 2nd third and fourth teams this season.
At the rugby club Jim’s proudest of his influence on our discipline. As none of us saw Jim during his first class career we’re unsure whether he’s actually a poacher turned gamekeeper, it isn’t easy to envisage him as an angelic 2nd row forward never stooping to any of the dark arts of skulduggery in the rucks and mauls.
Outside of rugby he’s a Director of a firm in the pharmaceutical industry and also a Director with Louis Smith in the Hilltop Wedding Venue, based on the Bollington side of Prestbury, organising receptions.
He travels regularly to Cambridge, where wife Noreen, a beautiful Irish Coleen from Antrim lives half there and half in Macclesfield, working also for AZ. Son Philip 13 is gifted with a wonderful singing voice and is a boy treble with the King’s College Choir who appear on our TV screens every Christmas Eve.
Keep up the good work, Jim but don’t pack in playing; nothing at all beats the adrenaline rush of the dressing room and actually being out there on the pitch playing the game of rugby.
The fourth team squad shows great teamwork and togetherness, and are playing some wonderful stuff. It all starts with a big set of forwards that dominate most other packs, securing the ball for the backs to run well with it in hand. They have won all their games in 2020, and they are in their own cup competition semi final on April 4th. They hope to have a good following when they are against Preston Grasshoppers away.
JUNIOR DIARY DATES
Next Friday 6th March at Priory Park, 6.30 kick-off: Macclesfield Under 14 v Stockport Under 14s, floodlit game.
Sunday 15th March again Priory Park 11.00 kick-off: Under 17 Junior Colts v Stockport Under 17 in the Cheshire cup semi final.
Senior members please come and support the next generation, the boys love big crowds, full bar and catering open.
COOKING UP A FEAST
How so much fabulous food can be created in such a small space amazes everyone at Priory Park. Maggie and Barry Priestley, of The Barbeque, independently run the Priory Park catering section, from the very compact but well organised kitchens. The lovely and obliging Maggie and her jovial husband Barry have a varied menu to satisfy the rugby club’s members and guests on match-days as well as a wide variety of other functions using Priory Park. On match-days Barry also runs the outdoor kiosk which serve pies, chips and hot drinks during the afternoon whilst all the other matches are taking place.
Maggie trained at High Peak Catering College, Buxton and she’s been in the catering business for 40 years. Previously she was with Manchester Rugby Club until the Club headhunted her; she’s been at Priory Park now for 8 seasons.
There are several big lunches during the rugby season, where Maggie and her well trained team have to prepare and serve up to 160 meals, an incredible task given the size of the kitchens; and then quickly clear them away in order to present up to another 100 post match meals for hungry players. How Maggie and the team manages all these repasts is an incredible feat, she would love more space to work in, which has not gone unnoticed; and is now part of the further draft development plans of Priory Park.
Within rugby circles they quickly built up a reputation for ‘serving the best pies in the league’. Maggie says her most popular home-made pies are the traditional Meat and Potato however Chicken Balti is becoming more and more popular. Every week is different, with a variety of events taking place at Priory Park, this week a very large finger buffet was catered for, serving some 200 people at the wake following the funeral of a player’s wife.
Outside of her very busy professional life she loves hill walking and cycling and when the season finishes Maggie and Barry take their car off to the continent and explore France, Spain and Italy.
It is without doubt, that in the past 8 years, they have built an excellent reputation for their catering, both in the rugby community and the Macclesfield community of Priory Park – keep up the good work!