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.
“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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