Blues deliver on promise
RUGBY UNION ALEX HANNAH
WHAT a difference twelve months makes. This time last year Macclesfield Blues were relegated from National League 1 after a difficult season.
Twelve months on, and they’re heading back there as National League 2 North Champions. Alex Hannah asked head coach Giles Heagerty for his take on the campaign. WHAT have you found particularly pleasing about this season, other than winning the league convincingly? “I suppose the thing I’m most pleased about is the fact that this season has been the most successful in the club’s history. Obviously it feels good to have been part of that particular piece of history. It’s been a massive achievement for everyone involved: not just players and management, but the Exec and the supporters too. It’s been a big year for the club, and I’m just pleased to have played my part.
“In practical terms, I’m proud that we managed to produce a team that scored over 900 points in the league. Moreover, the way we managed to amass those points and the way we played has been very pleasing and satisfying as well. The character of the group, which we’ve spoken about frequently, has also been a massive positive this season. It’s this character and attitude which helped us tie up the league with three games to spare. So the players should be very proud of their achievements.” WERE you at all surprised by the level and consistency of performance during the season; or could you see the potential before the first whistle blew? “I’VE always seen the potential in this squad, and knew that they could go on to achieve something special. Even last year when we got relegated, I knew that we had what it took to make a mark. We may not have fared as well as we would’ve liked last year, but we still played some excellent rugby at times. All we needed to do was make one or two adjustments, and we did that this season.
“We still need to make one or two more adjustments, but you have to say that this is a fantastic group of players. We obviously need to bring in one or two other players to bolster the squad and provide a little more depth. Yet I know deep down the boys are capable of delivering again next year. There’s still more to come, and that excites me no end.” HAVE there been any disappointments or frustrations this season? “I think some of the officiating has left a bit to be desired. It’s not just me saying that either. It’s a sentiment echoed by a number of other coaches and directors of rugby in the league, given the conversations I’ve had. Fortunately, the RFU are now prepared to enter into dialogue, which is a massive improvement from where we have been in the past. The referees are also becoming a little more approachable and amenable to feedback, so that’s a step in the right direction.
“The only thing that was a massive frustration was the weather, but that, too, was completely beyond our control. We always talk about controlling what we can; so if the only problems are issues beyond our control, I guess we’re in a pretty good place right now.” WHAT was the major issue with the officials? Was it the quality of decision-making or the apparent lack of consistency from game to game? “I suppose it was mainly the lack of consistency. I know that rugby’s a dynamic game, and as a result the picture will always be changing.
“So I understand that really you shouldn’t get the same picture week-in week-out: you shouldn’t really get the same consistent picture during the course of a game because of the dynamic environment, I guess. However, what you are looking for is consistency in the quality of the decisions made.
“I’ll give you an example. We’ve had edicts about neck rolls, which lay down strict and absolute rules; yet there’s inconsistency in how that is policed. That’s just one example off the top of my head. There are others I can assure you. However, I think it would be unfair to be too critical. All I would ask is that the team of three officials act more as a cohesive unit. As it stands I’m not sure that happens week-on-week.
“If, and when it does, the game will definitely benefit in my opinion. I’m not asking for favours or for any bias: all coaches want is consistency. The officials are there to facilitate that and look after the safety and welfare of the players. If they can do that and function more as cohesive unit, then I think together we can go on to deliver a quality game of rugby.”
●● Macclesfield players celebrate their promotion