The Granite City’s only American football team are still celebrating an incredible season – but they’re now gearing up for a new campaign in a tougher league.
The Aberdeen Roughnecks have gone from strength to strength since forming back in 2011, going undefeated last term in NFC 2 and earning a Division 1 promotion in the process.
A hard-fought 13-6 victory against rivals the Chester Romans in their final match gave the squad a boost of confidence going into the new season, according to coach Ruari Collinson.
Praising the determination of the players, Collinson admitted installation of a new project at the beginning of last season played a big part in their success.
The 26-year old said: “We made a few changes to the team’s culture in order for us to advance and everyone was apprehensive about this.
“Unlike before, game time is given to players depending on their effort with training. If they don’t attend the sessions, they don’t get the games.
“There were a few tough matches as some of our best players were missing out.
“But overall it resulted in everyone coming on leaps and bounds, and it pushed them to put in as much work as possible.
“It was definitely worth weakening the team on occasions because it’s strengthened them for the tough matches that lie ahead.”
The squad went into the final on a high following their 16-14 win against the Birmingham Bulls in their semi-final match, earning them a promotion.
Now permanent head coach to the squad Bryce Stevenson said: “There’s no substitute for hard work and our players have always known this.
“We made it clear from the offset what we wanted to achieve and we did just that.
“I always believed that we had the ability to go all the way and make it to Division 1.”
The promotion means that the Aberdeen side will face five quality squads next term, including the Glasgow Tigers, East Kilbride Pirates, Yorkshire Rams, Gateshead Senators and Northumberland Vikings.
Despite having to make several commutes to England next season and an increased training schedule, the team remain optimistic.
Collinson said: “We’ll be travelling to England three times, which can sometimes affect player ability.
“The teams are obviously bigger and better in the first division and it’s a good step up, but I reckon we’ll give them a run for their money.
“I believe anything is possible now. I knew everyone would improve as players but if you were to tell me at the beginning of last season that we’d go on to win the championship, I wouldn’t have believed it.
“But looking back at how hard all of our players worked and how much determination they had throughout the season, it doesn’t surprise me at all.
“I’m certain that their overall performance will be even better this time round because everyone now knows what’s expected of them.”
Stevenson added: “I’m feeling very good about what’s to come.
“Each of the five teams we’re set to play are of such a high calibre.
“The East Kilbride Pirates have a great history and we see them as a model we’re trying to base ourselves on, while the Northumberland Vikings are constantly improving.
“But I have no doubt that we deserve to be playing them.”
Ahead of next season, the Roughnecks are holding three rookie recruitment sessions designed for those keen on the sport.
For more information on these, visit the Roughnecks’ website or facebook page.