Blues de­liver on prom­ise

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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.”

Rob Hock­ney

●● Mac­cles­field play­ers cel­e­brate their pro­mo­tion

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