THERE’S NO END TO RUGBY
After the news from the RFU last week the season has fizzled to an anti-climax like a damp firework on a November night at Priory Park. Players have continued to train at home, following the virtual online fitness sessions provided by Jason Curtis and 1st team members and skills tests from Head Coach Andy Appleyard, the highlight, without doubt, being his Bottle-Top-Challenge. Andy’s social media challenge featured a slow-mo video of himself taking a screw-top of a bottle, with a Jonny Wilkinson class pass. The video either demonstrated exceptional talent, a one in a thousand take, or some very clever editing – impressive either way. We boldly go, where no other rugby player/rugby nut has gone before, slightly stir-crazy but non-the-less surviving in lockdown.
For the ex-players, the rugby fix has been satisfied with reruns of some of England’s famous victories and plastering social media with personal pictures of former glory. For some it was heady days at HQ and big local derbies whilst for others more modest, grainy, black and white snap-shots.
The good rugby news of the week was the announcement of the squad for next season; 90% of the current players confirming their allegiance to the Club. It demonstrates the spirit amongst the players and will give Andy Appleyard and his ‘eyes’ the opportunity to selectively bolster the squad in key areas during the coming months (what’s on your short-list, answers on a postcard).
James Oliver Profile
James Oliver is one half of the popular Oliver twins, playing for Macclesfield’s 1st XV, but unlike his brother Harry, his chosen position is in the back row. That said, his quick pace and skill sets create options elsewhere. Indeed, along with several other young players, he got his first chance with the firsts, away last season at Stourbridge, but playing on the wing. It must have been an eye opener playing against the fastest player in the third tier of rugby, in the try-scoring speedster of Dan Rundle.
James was born in Poynton, moving to Wilmslow and attending Wilmslow High School. He started his rugby, no doubt under the guidance of Father Rob and Grandfather Keith, in Macc’s Minis and Juniors, first joining the Under 6s and playing right through all the age groups, and then the Colts. This season was a permanent transition into the 1st team along with his brother Harry, Harry Harding and Will Davies, all this quartet played for Cheshire Under 18s and earlier this season for the county U20s. Helping the County to gain promotion into the elite of the U20s County Championship next season, where they will play the upper tier of counties including Lancashire and Yorkshire.
There is a further anecdote involving James and his three chums, who were in the Macclesfield team that played the England Schoolboy Champions, Sedbergh School. Sedbergh, seeking decent opponents, arrived at Macclesfield for a friendly warm-up game, no doubt expecting an easy outing. They went back north with their tales between their legs after a sound beating.
James has always played back row, a position he loves, and he maintains he’s the faster twin, but in all in their first team endeavours James and Harry have never actually had a footrace, it could be that Myles Hall would win but James fancies he’d push him all the way (not sure about Will Davies though). James says: “From the back row there’s so much involvement in every sphere of the game, I love tackling and rucking and like being first to the breakdown. Since playing senior rugby I think that I’ve learnt some of the finer-arts of slowing down the opposition possession more effectively. I train in the gym on Mondays and Wednesdays; squad sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Priory Park; Fridays are Cheshire squad sessions; match days on a Saturday, and then Sunday is often with Cheshire again; otherwise swimming, sauna and a hot tub to ease my aching muscles”.
As identical twins, confusion reigns: within the team, during coaching and probably on the pitch with referees. It’s safe to say that referees must have a double-take before raising their arm for persistent transgressions, only to hear: “It wasn’t me Ref!”
James can’t praise Andy Appleyard and Rick Jones enough: “Our coaches are the best I’ve had, both are meticulous in their preparations and inspiring in their pre-match build-ups and then praising us in the post-match huddles. I also find them very good at coaching on the individual points that they’ve identified during the games”.
Outside of rugby, he’s been a season ticket holder at Manchester City, when he can get there; he also enjoys a drink with chums in Wilmslow; plays cricket for Bramhall CC and the occasional round of golf in the summer. His dream is to become a professional rugby player, to that end he might consider taking a gap-year in the Antipodes to test out the possibilities in Australia and New Zealand.
James loves the social side of rugby so much so that at 11.30 every Saturday he and Harry meet up with Myles Hall and Club Captain Tom Morton, usually in the Bubble Room in Alderley Edge, to drink coffee and discuss rugby to get into the mind-set ready for the match. All this full-on, seven days a week of rugby is obviously the right formula, because it’s working – well done James.