GARIOCH RUGBY are within touching distance of winning Caledonia League Division Two North thanks to a remarkable run of form since the turn of the year, coinciding with a sharp decline in fortunes of their nearest challengers and local rivals Ellon.
The Inverurie based club are, however, not taking anything for granted when they travel to play bottom of the league Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis on Saturday, especially after a frustrating week of fixture confusion, as explained by head coach David Duguid.
“At the start of last week we had three games left to play, two of them at home, when first RAF Lossiemouth called off from our Thursday game, followed by Shetland being unable to travel on the Friday night due to all the berths on the ferry being booked,” he explained. “In the event, RAF Lossie pulled out of the league, leading to an adjustment of points which actually favoured us, though we would rather have played all games. I feel heart sorry for the players, not to mention our supporters, it’s all very unsatisfactory.”
The upshot of the fiasco is that the 40-year-old club need only two points to pip Ellon for the title, though Duguid has warned his players that they are not home and hosed quite yet. “We must stay focussed, and take nothing for granted, but it’s a good position to be in,” he said.
It’s certainly not a position the club expected to be in at the start of the season when, due to the down turn of the oil and gas industry in the North-east, the team was decimated by a loss of players, coupled with youngsters leaving the town to take up places in higher education.
But cometh the hour, cometh the man, and in front row player and president Rob Bly (35-years-young), Garioch were able to turn to a clubman of stern stuff, whose first task was to replace head coach Stuart Corsar who had to stand down due to pressure of work at the end of last season.
“Losing a coach with the experience of playing pro rugby with Glasgow Warriors, Rotherham Titans and Doncaster Kings was a real blow, but rather than go outside the club, we turned to former player Dave Duguid, and we struck gold. He has had a great season, and we can now dare to dream of playing in the top flight of the Caley leagues,” said Bly.
Duguid is suitably modest about taking the club to the fringe of promotion.
“I knew it was fine to take on the role, knowing I had the support of so many good people on the committee, including Rob, and our captain Sean Low ,who has been a tireless force for change on and off the field. We have also brought a number of new young players into the team, getting their first taste of rugby this season. I just hope we can deliver on Saturday, though if the Shetland game is played we’ll have another bite of the cherry,” he said.