Losing players from rugby is a big concern for Aberdeen Grammar head coach Ali O’Connor during the sport’s long lay-off.
The decision was made last month to cancel the entirety of the 2020-21 season, after the Halloween start date of a rejigged season proved impractical.
While there are targets to be playing some form of contact rugby by March, the fluctuating nature of the Covid-19 pandemic means this is still probably an ambitious target.
O’Connor has seen his own players turn to other interests to fill the gap rugby has left. While he had built a promising Grammar squad for the new campaign, they face up to 18 months without rugby by the time the 21-22 season could begin.
O’Connor said: “A lot of guys have picked up golf clubs for the first time in a while and enjoyed it. Guys have been playing games of football here and there to keep fit.
“There’s a concern that some of the squad will have 18 months out of it and are at the age where they end up wanting to focus on family and work. We were just starting to go on the up and felt we were going to be a danger to anyone this year.
“It would be nice to pick up where we left off, but it’s going to have an impact for everyone.”
Grammar had returned to training ahead of the season starting but that was soon put on hold.
With no concrete prospect of any rugby resuming in the near future, it has been put on the backburner by O’Connor.
He added: “We were preparing for the season and even with the Covid protocols in place, everyone was definitely keen to play. They were really excited about the season.
“Now that’s been cut out – I’m sure the bug will return, but there’s not much motivation just now. We don’t have an idea what timescale we’re working to and, if we did, I’m not sure people will believe it.
“At the moment my motivation is at a low ebb. I don’t think rugby will be a big loss in my life at the moment, but it will pick up again as and when it resumes.”
However, there are wider issues affecting the sport and it may be somewhat different by the time semi-professional rugby is able to resume in Scotland.
A group of 70 former players have brought forward a legal challenge to the game, regarding head injuries suffered during their playing career.
Former England hooker Steve Thompson, a 2003 World Cup winner, is among a number of ex-players suffering from early-onset dementia and is
O’Connor said: “It’s becoming a game of strength and power and less about endurance, which is what is used to be about. With that comes the danger of head injuries.
“For guys to be struggling at the ages they are, at 40 years of age and experiencing early-onset dementia, is a tragedy. If something can be done to make it safer, then players and coaches will be all for it.
“There will be winners and losers, but, in this day and age, everything has to be safety-conscious. Anything you can do to improve the wellbeing of players is a good thing.
“It’s not a huge thing we have to deal with, but we adhere to concussion protocols to the letter. These things spill down, trends you see in the professional game coming, so I’m sure there will be changes coming out at some point in time.”