A Granite City rugby institution has been nominated for one of Aberdeen’s Sport Awards after going through a year of regeneration.
Aberdeenshire RFC have been put forward for Club of the Year in this year’s celebration of sporting success.
Founded nearly 150 years ago, Shire had a turbulent 2017.
They battled a continuing lack of playing and financial resources because the downturn in oil and gas saw the club reduced from four to two adult teams.
However, chiefs began to make changes to preserve the club and turn things around.
Recently these decisions have borne fruit – with a second team set to return to join the club’s first XV and women’s sides for the new campaign.
The first string have had great success on the pitch, winning the Caledonian North Three title, as well as the Caley North Bowl and National Bowl (pictured), while Maedbh Smyth was Women’s National Two Player of the Year.
More significant for the coming campaign is the re-establishment of Shire’s youth section after six years, which will initially seek to introduce kids from primary 4-7 to rugby. President Colin Bell, who has been with the club since the mid-1980s, thinks the nomination reflects the optimism currently flowing through the Donside club.
He said: “We won our league, the regional bowl and national bowl at Murrayfield last season.
“We’re definitely on the up. On the back of the success we’ve had, we’re back up to two men’s teams and we’re currently revitalising the youth section as well, which is going to start in August with primary school age kids.
“There’s a lot of things we have turned around in the last two years.”
Aberdeenshire were the first club in the area to have a youth section in the 1960s and Colin thinks the benefits of introducing one again are multiple: It will help Shire continue to engage with the community around their Woodside ground, help establish a sustainable conveyor belt of talent to feed their adult sides, and assist in securing the future of amateur rugby in the area.
He said: “There’s a lot of hoops to jump through, child protection, PVG checks. There’s all that stuff to get through.
“It’s takes a lot of resources, coaches and organisers, but we’ve been working with the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) and local primary schools. We’ve got some access to them, community coaches and so on.
“There’s a distinct lack of players now. When I started playing there was an endless flow of people from oil and gas, and university, but there’s far less now.
“To be sustainable you need to have a production line coming through from a youth section.”
One of the changes Aberdeenshire has made is to move away from having expensive foreign players in their first XV.
The move has been necessitated by a sponsorship situation Colin says has been “dire” in the last few years.
The club is now a community-rooted, inclusive place to be.
The president – a former player, captain and coach at the club – added: “We’re far more involved in the community than we’ve ever been before.
“We get quite a lot of the local community down to watch and it’s very positive.
“The club is friendly and family-orientated – a very inclusive environment.”
The Sports Awards will be held at P&J Live on Thursday October 3.
To nominate an individual or club, visit aberdeenssportsawards.co.uk
Full category and criteria information below: