The future of match-day rugby, back at Macclesfield, has taken a small step in the right direction. Stage Two of England Rugby’s ‘Return to Rugby Road Map’ for the community game was in full swing at Priory Park last week. The1st and 2nd team squad was back in training, as part of stage two, of seven steps required before competitive matches can be played.
Squad players were keen to get back to training and turned up in good numbers for what was a non-contact session, mainly based around individual skills and fitness. Players trained in pods of 5, maintaining social distancing whilst negotiating a circuit of seven stations, with intense workouts at each station. Each station was equipped with a hand sanitizer, soap and water and hand-wash, with players being required to ‘sanitize’ at each new station. Head Coach, Andy Appleyard, had this to say about their non-contact training: “It has been a challenge to manage, and the senior players have really stepped-up and shown great leadership. Each session seems to get better, and we are taking advantage of the small groups to really focus-in on skills with repetition, while still trying to make it challenging and fun. The vision is to break our game down in to small areas that may often get overlooked and focus-in and fine-tune skills and development areas for each player”.
The players across all teams at the Rugby Club are very excited about the start of next season, whether that’s September, October or even November; and are champing-at-the-bit to play again. The players that were part of last season’s campaign have made it clear that they are desperate to right some wrongs; some of their own doing and some as what they see as a cruel computation by the RFU to decide the final league positions. The 1stXV missed out on promotion to National Two by less than a point when the league season was sadly cut short in March. With two games in hand at that time, and on a good run of form, a play-off position, at the minimum, was entirely reasonable to expect. That said, a number of the senior players have made it clear that they left a few points on the pitch last season and they don’t want to be in that position again. Head Coach Appleyard concurred: “The Boys are hungry for success and feel there is unfinished business in the league. Our culture is strong and the progress the team made last season will fuel our determination this time around.”
On the subject of potential new signings Head Coach Appleyard was, quite rightly, playing his cards close to his chest: “We have been delighted with the very high retention of players for the forthcoming season and we have a number of new faces attending pre-season training, so watch this space and keep an eye on the Club website for more news”. He will also have the benefit of several tried and tested players returning from long-term injuries to add to the list.
Chairman Stephen Branch said that in other player news, the Club has launched a recruitment campaign on its website and on Facebook and other social media: “We are keen to recruit players at all levels to build the squads across all our adult rugby teams, plus Colts and Youth and our Mini and Junior sections. We offer something for everyone so, if you are interested, or know someone who might be, please have a look at the website and contact the Club”.
Off the pitch and on the social front, Chairman Stephen Branch said the big news from the Rugby Club was that, following the Government announcement last week, about a further relaxation of the lockdown guidelines, that the Club will open an outdoor beer garden on Saturday 4th July, weather permitting: “The site has been designed and fully risk assessed with signage, a one-way system and all the hygiene equipment and materials needed to ensure the safety of those who attend. We do ask that individuals and family groups bring their own furniture, rugs, cushions, etc. All the details are available on the Club website or from Andy Appleyard, contact details are also on the website. If the event is a success, we will consider running further outdoor events in the weeks after, and continue to follow the guidelines as communicated by the Government”. Stephen was particularly pleased with how, once again, the members had rallied to the call; helping to affect these changes to get the Club open for the members to meet and relax: “Whist we have a number of outdoor tables and chairs, we are going to need more to accommodate the interest shown, and we hope in most cases people will bring their own, added to which, a group of members have put their DIY skills to the test to create some extra Beer Garden furniture out of recycled pallets”. Prompted by Andy Appleyard, Club Captain Frankie Barker tested out the idea at home: “It’s something that we picked up online and made for lounging around – it looks pretty good considering. We’ve had a number of pallets donated to us by Members and after a few hours work, by some resourceful DIY members, got the job done”. It would seem that the Club is doing everything required and more for the safety of its members in being Covid-19 both in training and for the forthcoming outdoor events.
Another initiative to maximise the large Priory Park facility for members has come via President Peter Harper: “It was at the height of lockdown boredom that I had this idea of creating a Petanque course at the Club, well I put it to our little Vets Golf group on WhatsApp, and being a French game it didn’t get a 100% backing, naming no names Clive, but the idea has grown into what could be one of the other added facilities at the Club for members to use. Dave Marchington of Marchington Stone has donated 20 tonnes of grit for the course and we are just trying to source some telegraph poles or railway sleepers for the edging. We should have enough for two or three courses for people to use. The idea is that you bring your own boules to play with until we are up and running, then we will make these available for adults and children to loan from the Club”.
The other news from the Club is the launch of the new ‘Priory Park Venue’ website (www.prioryparkvenue.co.uk). The site is designed specifically for those who are looking for venue hire either for business or social events and functions including meetings, weddings and funerals. The launch comes after the recent work by members at the Rugby Club to improve the facility for full use within the community. Part of the Priory Park facility is the resident catering company of Maggie and Barry Priestly, ‘The Barbecue’. Naturally, like other such businesses, there has been no catering to cater for; fortunately Maggie and Barrie’s pies had built a reputation within the rugby community as being the best! Their menu of pies and flans has grown and grown over the past four months as they have built their delivery and takeaway service to the membership and beyond.
Virtual rugby and fun and games has continued to keep members engaged in the game, the Club and their pals; video meetings, fitness programmes and chats are a weekly event along with Frankie Barker and Matt Coleridge’s highly professional Podcasts, giving some excellent insights into the Club and its characters. The highlight event so far has been the hugely successful Virtual Race Night, making over £2600 for the Club.
The 1st/2nd team squad will be training on Saturday the 4th of July from 10-11am; there is an open invitation for anyone to come and watch before the Beer Garden and outdoor bar is officially opened!