If truth be told, Rob Davies the ‘Player’ is now firmly in the past, but more by wear-and-tear than desire. Rob started his rugby journey, like several other Macc players-of-old, at Wilmslow. The Waa-Waas, as Wilmslow are un-affectionately known as, has always been a good breeding ground for rugby talent, but when its first team’s fortunes waned, players have moved on for more competitive rugby. Rob played Junior rugby there before a good spell at Sale, then joining Macclesfield in 1995; Rob said on the Club Podcast: “I joined at the same time that Steve Burnage arrived, it was a very successful time for the Club with a lot of home-grown talent, most of the guys had come through from the Colts, there were only about two or three of us who had come from outside the Club”. He went on to say that a lot of the success was down to the chemistry in the team, they had played together through the juniors and Colts, then broke into the first team; players like Matt Harding, Dave Worthington and David Taylor, who he had played with at Sale, led the side: “But the turning point was Dave Cusani; Dave was a former Orrell player (who back then were a Championship winning side) and an England International”. According to Rob he would give the side an enormous amount of confidence, telling the players what was possible and giving them the belief that they could play beyond themselves, doing more than the things that they were used to.
Rob said that the real success started with winning the Cheshire Cup for the first time: “This was just before I joined, I was still at Sale, but side-lined through a knee injury. There were some big names playing for Sale that day, Macc were the underdogs, but they played outstanding well, their togetherness showing on the pitch. That was the first time then we beat them a few years later at home”. Rob explained that by then the game had gone professional and the pace of the game had increased dramatically: “Sale had a young guy called Reece on the wing, who had been capped for England, and got past Jonah Lomu, no one could lay a finger on him for fifteen minutes, but we hung in there, the Priory Park faithful got behind us and we got the win”.
Rob particularly remembers the Pilkington Cup match against Walsall, who were a very good side back then: “We were punching well above our weight, and really should have won, but for a penalty in the dying seconds. It was a massive crowd that day and coming back into the Clubhouse afterwards was an incredible atmosphere, pretty similar to some recent matches at Macc”. Rob pointed out the similarities in the togetherness of that team, and in today’s team, is even closer as a bunch of mates. Reflecting on the rugby he was playing then for Macclesfield and today he said he thought that the there was a massive difference today in the physicality of the game: “The fitness levels and pace of the game today are a lot higher, but I don’t think that the skill sets have changed that much … what is noticeable is that the social side is back, which was lost for a time”. He talked about the transition of his eldest son Will into the first team, and the other young boys, how supportive the team had been and allowing them to have a voice, which wouldn’t have been allowed in his day.
Rob was forced to finish playing for Macclesfield with a neck injury, but after several years he was coerced to play for the Vets along with former first teamers Rob Oliver and Dave Worthington: “It was not uncommon for first-teamers, returning from injury, to play for the Vets; they were always a very strong side and for a long time the mainstay of the Club – always last to leave the bar. Yes, I remember winning the league with the Vets, but I didn’t do much tackling, too many injuries. I then took a break from rugby, what with business pressures and bringing up a young family”. He remembers Sarah, his wife first bringing eldest son Will down to the Club, followed by Alex and Ollie: “When they got into contact rugby I came back down and got into coaching; which now must be 15 years ago”. He recalls Will’s first game for Macclesfield 1st team, when he was still a schoolboy: “Surprisingly Will was a late-developer, as an August birthday but after playing for the first team he went back to school boy rugby and ripped it up, I remember particularly in a 10s competition at Sedbergh”. Rob said that it helped him enormously playing with some of the lads that he’d played with at Kings and through Junior Rugby at Macclesfield. When asked about, if it made him feel old now, along with other team mates watching your sons play for the club on a Saturday: “Just the opposite, getting involved with the social side with the first team and mixing with the young players is a bit of a new lease of life”.
As a Coach and Dad, he said that he had made some mistakes, particularly with Will, over analysing and putting him under too much pressure at times: “I’ve learnt my lessons and it’s a lot easy with Alex, who is quite studious about the game as a scrum half and Ollie just learns a lot from his older brothers. As far as being a Dad on the touchline goes, he’s learnt to control his emotions but does feel it for all the boys and the Coaches when things don’t go quite to plan. With Will, his eldest, now off to university in Northumberland, his and Sarah’s hopes turn to the other two talented Davies boys. Ollie now playing for the U14s and Alex ready to take the challenge of senior rugby: “As a Scrum Half the position is currently well filled by ‘Stelmo’ but we hope that some chances might come his way, particular if we go up a league where there will be more substitution opportunities. The Macclesfield faithful will look forward to enjoying more of the Davies dynasty at Priory Park, for many years to come.
It should be said that Rob hid his light under a bushel at interview; he was an extremely talented young player, a schoolboy international with England, a Sale regular until coming to Macclesfield, where along with a few other players was a massive change-agent at the Club; Rob was always a joy to watch and an even better experience if you got the opportunity to play with him. Listen to the full Podcast via the Macc Rugby website.