The people have spoken: April 22nd to May 6th 2019

The Offside Line's readers have their say on the rugby stories which have really mattered to them during the last fortnight

Ayr v Heriot's
Ayr captain Pate McCallum takes the game to Heriot's during the Scottish Cup Final. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson

HERE is the second instalment of our series chronicling most interesting and thought-provoking feedback we have had on the stories covered by The Offside Line during the last two weeks.

We welcome submissions via Facebook, Twitter and comments at the foot of articles on the site. You can also email us at contact@theoffsideline.com, but please make it clear that you consent to have your words published and attributed.

We welcome views on all aspects of the game – things you like and things you don’t like – as long as it is respectful and constructive. Valid criticism is fine, personal attacks will be deleted.


23rd April: National League Cup Final was a day to remember for Caledonia rugby

Regular contributor Jack Nixon spoke of the pride he felt in his region when watching Aberdeen Grammar and Highland compete in a full-blooded National League Cup final.

Dom Ward:

Lovely piece Jack. So nice to read something where the pure love of the game shines though.

John Gibson:

I am just checking if Stirling County had been removed from Caledonia. I hope not as our U18’s play Highland, in Perth on Sunday 28th April, in the U18 final of the Caledonia Cup.

Jim Rae:

David & Jack, thanks to the Offside Line journalistic team for bothering to turn-up at Bridgehaugh on Saturday to see two cracking games between old Caley North rivals, Highland RFC and Aberdeen Grammar Rugby. From your reports, I trust you were not disappointed by what turned out to be a super day for amateur rugby in Scotland.

Though the SRU event team on the day did a great job (and Dee, the President of Scottish Rugby turned-up and participated enthusiastically), it is a shame that the SRU paid such little heed to the Cup on its progress through the knock-out stages to the Final. Great to see both a National 1 and a National 2 side competing in the Final (both promoted upwards next season). Apart from some dodgy, inconsistent calls from the match officials, the games were played in good spirit and the passion for the game was most evident.

Highland got the nod 10-15 in the 2nds game, completing a fantastic run to be Champions of Caledonian North 2, But Aberdeen Grammar’s scratch 2nds gave them a real challenge. Just a pity the game was played on a side pitch, not within the main ground. It detracted from the occasion.

The main event was a cracker (as your reports suggest), but why so few media/press reps and why only pre-publicity a few days before the event, the competition being notably absent from all previous SRU news releases? Is the 2nd most important Cup competition really not worth the ink, when the Bowl got much more build-up? Not born mere syndrome? The SRU press team seem to have been instructed to ignore the National League Cup throughout and even the programme for the day, was a disgrace. A flyer with minimal team info and a wee intro, when the focus of the publication was as a “flyer” to promote, so-called “Silver Saturday” (an admission that the offering does not meet the top, “gold standard”?)! Poor call from Mr Dodson and his Executive. It was clearly their ball and we weren’t going to get to play with it!!

Big thanks you’s to Stirling County and their staff and officials; Aran and the SRU events team; Vicky, SRU Competitions team; Dee Bradbury for turning-up and being a great sport; the players on both teams in both games; the Dundee High committee man for showing-up and supporting the event; the fabulous supporters for both teams who got on a bus and made it such a great day; and Bill Giles and the weathermen who gave us such a fantastic sunny stage to play on.

Raspberries to Mr Dodson and his SRU Executive for ignoring us all season; The SRU Media Team for similar treatment and doing their best impression of “the invisible man” on the day; the referee and his official “Assistants” who seemed out of their depth and unable to take positive control of a full-on club game (where was Holly? She is the best ref we have had all season!); the touch judge who raised and then lowered his flag at the end of the 2nds game, when the score was 10-10, without the ref noticing (though George Whitecross did a splendid single-handed job up to that point. Not to blame for a dodgy bit of gamesmanship!); and the over-officious and totally un-necessary security staff who just seemed to want to antagonise the happy crowd for no apparent reason.

The Winner? Well, of course, the game of rugby at the amateur level!! What a great ad for the ethos of the game. Just a pity not more people and media were attracted to participate. Something for the SRU to remedy next year? I sincerely hope so.

And best of luck to all teams being granted the honour of plating at Murrayfield this weekend, with perhaps a little bit of bias toward our local compatriots, Aberdeenshire RFC.

Jimmy Rae, Honorary President, Aberdeen Grammar Rugby (these are my personal views and not necessarily those of the Club)


26th April: Silver Saturday Men’s Finals: all the runners and riders

The following Friday, we previewed Silver Saturday, and one Ayr fan in particular was feeling rather bullish about his team’s prospects in the Cup Final against Heriot’s.

Ayr Massive:

Ayr will have this wrapped up at half time. They are better than Heriot’s from 1 to 15, the Ayr scrum will humiliate the heriot’s pack for all 80 minutes.


28th April: Heriot’s coach Phil Smith blasts the pro player draft

In the event, the match was rather closer than ‘Ayr Massive’ had predicted. With a long-range, injury-time penalty from Frazier Climo all that separated the teams at the end. Afterwards, Heriot’s head coach Phil Smith expressed some disquiet abut the vagaries of the pro player draft which left his club with no centrally contracted professionals in their line-up for the big match while their opponents had three. This has always been a contentious issue.

May Sinclair:

Phil Smith is quite correct. The only fair way is no pro players in cup games. There will always be teams that prefer to, in the final, reward their home grown players for geting them to the final then there are other teams, so desperate for silverware, use as many pros as they can recruit. Don’t expect the SRU to come up with a solution, you only need to look at the super 6 shambles to know that.

Dom Ward:

I do feel for Heriots but as always no “rules” broken. Just the spirit and ethos of the game.

Interesting how club sides can’t play dual registered players from higher divisions in the last few matches of the season.

Michael Zekko:

Has a point although it should be noted who they drafted.

James Johnstone (Edinburgh Rugby), Chris Dean (Edinburgh Rugby), Jack Cuthbert (Scotland 7s), Allan Dell (Edinburgh Rugby), Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby), Simon Hickey (Edinburgh Rugby), Henry Pyrgos (Edinburgh Rugby), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby).

At the start of the season, only Johnstone, Dean & Cuthbert were not looking like starters. Can’t complain too much if every other team drafts better than you.

Jim Rae:

I don’t remember anyone from Heriot’s complaining when both Aberdeen Grammar and Dundee High were relegated from the old Premier Division due to the unfair allocation of draft pros to sides in the Central Belt. The statistics show that the average availability to the two Northern sides was far below that offered teams such as Ayr and Melrose and, oh yes, Heriot’s.

The system is intrinsically unfair and has a negative effect on player motivation in the Club teams. The movement should be up, not down. Before S6, I advocated 2nd XVs for the 2 Pro teams that could be augmented by club players. They would play English/Irish academy pro sides and the better club players would be blooded at a higher level, whilst keeping the ethos intact at club sides. Positive player development, not losing your place to a drafted pro every third Saturday. Aldi gets the pro players all playing!

Now with S6 who knows what will happen. Moral of the story. Phil, don’t moan about a system that has kept you in the top flight for years!!! People in glass houses…….

R Cummings:

I am pretty sure that the SRU [Super 6] plan referred to, to field Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh A teams in a cross-border competition, has been dropped now or is dormant. The idea was to field Pro U23 teams, including Stage 3 Academy players, rounded out with some club call-ups, against the equivalent from the Irish and Welsh Pro teams.

I think the objection came from the clubs, probably the Super 6 clubs, that they needed the Stage 3 Academy boys and Pro draft to make up their squad numbers.

Anyway, the Irish and Welsh went ahead without us this season, each team played 4 or 5 U23 games at the start of the season, it was over by end September IIRC. It is a very good idea, gives the young Pro players some game time against their international peers and future international opponents and is a big step up for them, the Academy boys and club players to pretty competitive rugby.

As it’s only a 4 or 5 week competition, I’m sure it must be possible for the Scots to participate without causing a hiatus in the Super 6. OK, the S6 would be shorn of their Stage 3 Academy Pro players for the first 4 or 5 weeks of the season, but that wouldn’t be insurmountable given goodwill and a bit of planning. The bonus would be getting players back with experience of high-level cross-border competition, which has to be good for the development of the Scottish game in general and Super 6 in particular.


3rd May: ‘Dual Participation Protocol’ for Super 6 players explained

A ‘club communication’ was issued by the SRU last Friday which provided some clarity on how player movement between  club rugby, Super 6 and pro rugby will work.

Scott McCallum (via Twitter):

Hmmm, lot of players not going to get much game time.

Bryce Weir:

Sounds like a right bourach.

Also sounds like something a lawyer would be needed to adjudicate over as there seems to be a number of areas which could result in total confusion.

Smacks of bureaucracy applying rules after the event.

John Williamson (via Facebook):

Just who do these players play for??

Super 6 players will be permitted to play for another Super 6 team on a week-to-week basis.

If you get injured you may never play for your original team again.??

If a Super 6 player is ‘long-term injured” – ie expected to miss at least 30% of their team’s competitive fixtures – then the relevant Super 6 team may apply to replace the player in their squad. If an injury replaced player then returns to fitness, they may not return to the relevant Super 6 squad unless replacing another long-term injured player.

Steven Grant (via Facebook):

Are the SRU going to ensure an even spread of Academy players through the Premiership and only allow them to have equal numbers in each squad on game days?

Dom Ward:

Well, that’s easy to understand.

If only these issues could have been foreseen before this was launched….

Scrummo:

It’s happening whether we like it or not so lets get behind it and try to make it work for Scottish rugby as a whole. Feel there is a very anti super six agenda on here which belies the professionalism of all other aspects of the site and disappoints because of it.

Ray:

The most important role of a journalist in a democracy is to shine a light down the corridors of power and report objectively on what is revealed without fear of reprisal. Super 6 is the brainchild of a small group of individuals in a position of power who are making decisions with no thoughts to their wider consequences, despite the fact they have significant impact on the game’s stakeholders. That the Offside Line at least attempts to hold these individuals accountable for their actions when no one else will is perhaps the most important thing they have and can do.

Dom Ward:

Indeed it is happening. But what does “get behind this” mean?

I won’t go and watch an S6 match over my club. And we still don’t know when their matches will get played! I do want to see this be a success but have doubts on its viability from a number of angles.

whats fascinating is the inability to learn from experience. It took decades for Edinburgh and Glasgow to build up a following. What makes the S6 sides and the SRU think this tournament will somehow be able to leap ahead of that?


Edinburgh scoop hat-trick at PRO14 awards

 

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1 Comment

  1. Just to clarify, I am not against the concept of creating a semi pro structure below the professional ranks & fully appreciate the benefits.
    However, other question marks will always remain re the manner in which it was achieved, the way in which the SRU foisted hobsons choice (or was that Dodsons) on clubs, the way in which the 2 & not more than 2 per district rule was overlooked & now these new, down & sideways movements have suddenly appeared.
    It all smacks of making up strange & half-baked rules on the hoof.

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