Aberdeen Select v Aberdeen Exiles: Boxing Day truce is not enough

Jack Nixon repeats his call for greater club collaboration in the Granite City

Aberdeen Select and Aberdeen Exiles will play their traditional festive game at Rubislaw on Boxing Day. Image: Aberdeenshire Rugby Football Club
Aberdeen Select and Aberdeen Exiles will play their traditional festive game at Rubislaw on Boxing Day. Image: Aberdeenshire Rugby Football Club

LONG held differences will be put on hold at Rubislaw on Boxing Day when an Aberdeen Select plays host to a team of Aberdeen Exiles in the traditional post Christmas game which goes back to 1930 when two homesick Aberdonians dreamed up a friendly fixture in a London bar.

Tommy Robertson and Doug Cochrane, two solicitors based in ‘The Smoke’ would no doubt be pleased that their initiative has stood the test of time but less happy about the decline of the local game in the Granite City in the intervening 93 years which sees the highest placed North East team languishing in National League Two, a far cry from the turn of the century when Aberdeen Grammar graced the Premiership, while being pushed all the way by deadly derby rivals Gordonians and Ellon.

Prior to last year’s fixture, a number of prominent figures in the game, inlcluding Jim Sugden, the organiser of Tuesday’s game, urged the North East rugby fraternity to use the gathering of players, officials and supporters of clubs to discuss how to take the game forward.

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“As far as I can see, nothing has happened that suggests the area has addressed the decline in local game,” said Sugden, a former player at Grammar and Gordonians where he was also a president.

Among those who were keen to keep alive the 93-year-old tradition, but equally determined to raise the standing of rugby in the Granite City, was Archie Park, the much respected former president of Ellon who took the Aberdeenshire club from the Caledonia Leagues to Premiership Three in the last 2000s, enjoying six successive promotions along the way.

Joint head coaches of that era, Alex Duncan and Kevin Wyness are also known to support the idea of a cooperative project before it’s too late to arrest the slide.

And add to that the backing of Eric Strachan, the current head coach of struggling Aberdeen Grammar, who is also taking charge of the Aberdeen Select on Tuesday.

“I honestly believe clubs have to pull together but under one flag. United we stand, divided we fall. Boxing Day represents another opportunity. We dare not waste it, otherwise the area will fall further behind our counterparts in the Borders, Edinburgh and Glasgow. A truce for the day is just not enough,” said Strachan who stresses that he wants the day to be an enjoyable occasion but one in which serious dialogue about the future takes place.


The Exiles will be coached by former Glasgow Warriors pro Rory McKay, who has had time in his illustrious career playing for both camps at Rubislaw and Countesswells.

Last year, Ruaridh Jackson, another former pro player who served time with Aberdeen’s top two, turned in a masterclass, leading the Exiles to an emphatic 37-19 win.

“Who wins matters little but let’s hope we have some quality rugby, followed by some sensible dialogue in which we take the game forward in the area [because] there’s a lot at stake,” concluded Sugden.

An array of players from all over Scotland and further afield will line up at 11am on December 26th  to take on the might of players from Aberdeen Grammar, Aberdeenshire, Deeside, Dyce, Ellon, Gordonians, Garioch and Aberdeen Wanderers.



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About Jack Nixon 72 Articles
Jack is a Borderer, born in Langholm, and a graduate of Moray House College of Education in Edinburgh. He was a founder member of Livingston Rugby Club in 1968 and has been rugby correspondent for the Aberdeen Press and Journal since 1997. He has been going to Murrayfield man and boy since 1954!


  1. Ultimately collaboration is only being shouted about by one club currently because they’re free falling, and scrambling to remain!

    One entity is the solution no doubt, but how it looks and actioned is indeed a mystery.

  2. Another insightful and challenging article from the guru of rugby in the North & North-East. Jack, says it as it is. Having followed the game in depth at all levels in the area, he is well qualified to express an opinion and profer suitable observations.
    Sadly, despite the clear overall decline in numbers playing and the tangible drop in standards, the “tribes” that constitute the structure of rugby in the City of Aberdeen and its hinterland, seem incapable of seeing the big picture of change required.
    Intriguingly, some of the recent advocates of change have done much to reinforce resistance, due to their past involvements and behaviours whilst leading lights at several local Clubs
    Time for a new generation to take a lead and cast aside the vitriol and incriminations of “yesterday’s men”.

    The picture is complicated by the paucity of infrastructure to sustain a top-level club in the area. Nowhere, is a fully integrated facility available at which players can train, condition, play and socialise as members of a worthwhile single club competing at the top. (Hang your heads in shame SRU)

    Many wish for this change. Currently, few have any confidence it is attainable. Prove me wrong!

    • ‘For every complex problem there is a solution that is clear,simple and wrong.’ A bureaucratic response to an operational problem would surely drive the final nail into the coffin of competitive rugby in Aberdeen.

      • Good point Bill.

        This is a very useful article though I think it says similar things to last years one.

        I wonder what the problem(s) that’s trying to be addressed here? Is it player numbers? Better players? A super club for Aberdeen that addresses these (though seems light in how)? It seems that they have started with the solution and trying to work back from there.

        Here’s the thing with change, you need a shared vision of what it is we are working towards, the means to bring that to life and the drive to make it happen. I don’t doubt the positive intentions of those associated with this and hope they get something going. Strikes me there are some fundamentals that need addressed first though.

    • Who are holding this back? Who are the recent advocates reinforcing resistance? And are you a member of any of the city clubs fighting change ? How would you go about getting the change over the try line?

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