Firstly, I would like to take the opportunity to thank both our main sponsors, Dandara and Optimus, who’s contribution is greatly received particularly in the current economic climate in the North East.
The previous few seasons in National 1 have proven to be competitive affairs, with Aberdeen perhaps not competing at the top of the league but nonetheless keeping the Rubislaw faithful on the edge of their seats as they flirt with relegation. The squad has a much more settled feel with almost all of the squad returning, bolstered with several new additions and the reappearance of Ed Nimmons and German international Matt Schosser, who bring a wealth of experience. Head Coach, Ali O’Connor, and his coaching team have provided an excellent preseason and hopefully the players will build on the lessons learnt over the last couple of seasons to start climbing up the league and finish in a position more aligned with their capabilities.
The 2XV, coached by Duncan Massey, enjoyed a successful 2016/17 season in Caledonia Division 2 North East by qualifying in the upper half of the league, entitling them to play against the reciprocating upper half of the West Division, finishing 5th overall. Most of that squad have only recently stepped up to senior rugby, so last season was certainly a steep learning curve. Having now cut their teeth, the young squad together with a few old heads are ready to push on and mount a serious challenge for the league. Exotic trips to both Stornoway and Shetland lie ahead which requires commitment from the players and a fair amount of logistical support to arrange the various ferries and flights to fulfil these fixtures.
Due to SRU restrictions placed on school players also representing clubs on the same weekend we have now fully joined forces with Aberdeen Wanderers from Under 13 to Under 18 age groups under the banner of Granite City Colts. This is an exciting move for Aberdeen Grammar and hopefully paves the way for more cooperation between the clubs in the city.
There is bound to be much lively debate in the clubhouses around the country following the SRU’s proposed semi-professional announcement. At the time of writing there is little detail on how this proposal will impact rugby in the North East, but it is certainly clear rugby in Scotland is changing. National 1 is the hinterland between amateur rugby and the current semi-pro set up iin the Premiership, with many clubs struggling to hold on to aspiring players and the gap widening between the two leagues. Getting the balance between being an ambitious club which can retain and attract promising talent and one which is financially sustainable is very difficult. It is this balance which we are aiming to achieve at Grammar and hopefully these new developments don’t tip the scales too far in either direction.
From my perspective, this season’s revised cup format is a welcome change which provides some truly competitive fixtures with some obtainable silverware for all the clubs involved, the first and last time a team outside the top division contested the Cup Final was 20 years ago. National One is shaping up to be as hotly contested as previous seasons, with both Cartha Queens Park and Kelso promoted from National 2 and Borders heavyweights Gala stepping down from the Premiership. It is a pleasure to welcome these clubs back to Rubislaw and I wish all visiting teams the best of luck.