Aberdeen Grammar head coach Ali O’Connor has been heartened by the response from players as rugby starts to make its return.
Grammar have having touch rugby sessions once a week of late, with the turnout of players impressing O’Connor.
He said: “We’ve been playing touch rugby as regulations allow and we’ve had great turnout – 35 or 40 lads and some of the girls from Garioch have come along to the sessions as well.
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“It’s been good to be back with the guys again and throwing the ball about.
“That was the fear, that a lot of guys would move away from it. We’ve lost a few folk but not much different from the normal life cycle of a team. By and large it seems we’re in a good position to have a strong squad.”
Earlier this week the competition structure for the 2021-22 season was finalised, which will see a return to the Premiership for Grammar.
Last season was cancelled due to the pandemic, after it had been rejigged into a slew of regional competitions.
O’Connor said: “Our preference has always been to test ourselves at the highest level possible, so it’ll be a return to the Premiership for us. I’m looking forward to getting that competition up and running again and hopefully the other clubs are as well.
“Sometimes simplicity is best. The return of the Premiership is certainly welcomed from our end.
“It’s been over a year since a lot of the boys played contact rugby. On the plus side a lot of injuries might have healed – it might have extended a few players’ careers by taking a break. But a lot of boys are just keen to get back into it.”
Pre-season preparations will kick up over the next few weeks, with the season normally starting in August. Providing 65% of league fixtures are completed then promotion and relegation will be enforced in all leagues, however if it is less than that the season will be finished with no changes in divisions.
O’Connor added: “We’ve worked in eight-week blocks. From July 4 we start pre-season training but in the eight weeks leading up to that we’ve had a big focus on strength and conditioning.
“We’ve developed a good partnership with Athletic Edge Gym, on Springfield Road, where our players have been in three times a week working on strength programmes.
“It’s a big time commitment for the players but they seem to be rising to it well.”
In the off-season Grammar have strengthened their coaching team, with the addition of Craig McLeod to take the club’s second XV.
“He’s going to take the twos and be part of the wider coaching team. He’s a PE teacher by trade and has some good experience behind him. He’s been a positive addition.
“We’re always trying to increase the depth of our coaching team and Craig will bring something to that.”