Biggar get better at both 1st XV and academy level

Sarah Denholm's call-up to the full Scotland Women's matchday squad on Sunday is a testament to the club's academy programme

Mark Bertram scored a try for Biggar in last week's victory over Stirling County Wolves. Image: Nigel Pacey
Mark Bertram scored a try for Biggar in last week's victory over Stirling County Wolves. Image: Nigel Pacey

BIGGAR head into this weekend’s clash with Watsonians on the back of a run of seven consecutive wins in National League One stretching back to 14th September, putting them five points clear of Highland at the top of the table. It has been an impressive start to the campaign for the newly promoted side.

Player (and forwards coach) Craig Borthwick, centre Rory Hutton and winger Mark Bertram will have a fairly good idea of what to expect from Watsonians this weekend having played for the my reside club as recently as last season. While the first two of those players came through the ranks in the Borders before moving to Myreside and then on to Hartreemill, the third has now returned to the club where he first played as a mini.

“It is great being back at Biggar,” said Bertram, who scored a try in the win over Stirling County Wolves last week but has struggled this week with a small tear in his calf so has been named on the bench for this weekend’s match.


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“I really enjoyed my four years at Watsonians and it was really good to play alongside some talented players and receive top quality coaching from the likes of Marcus Di Rollo. During my time there I learnt a lot about myself as a player because I was only young when I made the move.

“Now I am back here it is nice to be playing alongside some guys who I grew up playing alongside as well as some really young guys who are just breaking into the senior set-up.

“I played two years of senior rugby when I was here before, but I am a lot more experienced now and I just try to help the players around me and the team in general as much as I can.

“With Biggar winning National Two last year, we were not really sure what to expect from National One this time around because of the leagues being re-jigged and the Super6 Club XVs coming into things.

“We have had some good results and played good stuff at times, but we know that there is a long way to go in the league with some strong teams around us.

“Watsonians have had a lot of changes given they are a Super6 club now and I only really know a handful of their squad now, but it’ll be good all the same.

“The coaches don’t let us look too far ahead, all we focus on at training is the next game and doing things better than we did the week before and as a group that is the way we like it,” Bertram concluded.

Flourishing academy

While Biggar have undoubtedly been boosted by the arrival of seasoned campaigners such as Hutton and Borthwick, the club recognises that their long term sustainability must be engineered from within.

The Biggar RFC Academy started in 2015 and has been very successful for the club with many of the original intake progressing into the 1st XV, gaining representative regional honours and/or Scotland age-grade caps for both male and female sides.

The programme is currently managed by Nic Humphries and is split into two different parts: Hypers and the club Academy.

Hypers is the high performance section that aims to develop individual skills, tactical awareness and strength & conditioning. It currently has 45 male and female players involved, catering for under-14 to under-18 levels, Meanwhile, the Academy offers additional training for those aged between P6 to S6 ages.

Sarah Denholm, who came through the ranks at Biggar, is on the Bech for Scotland Women against Wales on Sunday.
Sarah Denholm, who came through the ranks at Biggar, is on the Bech for Scotland Women against Wales on Sunday.

Players in and around the current 1st XV squad that is doing so well that have come through the Academy system include Andrew Jardine, Robbie Orr, Rowan Stewart, Luhann Kotze and Ross Jackson.

Meanwhile, 18-year-old stand-off Sarah Denholm, who is set to make her debut off the bench for the senior Scotland Women’s team against Wales on Sunday, also came through the Academy at Biggar before heading to Edinburgh University in the summer.

“It is great to see a number of guys who have come through with us now playing a big part in the Biggar 1st XV,” said Humphries. “We aim to give them as much help and support as we can to make them the best players that they can be, and there are many in the 2nd XV too.“ The club has really invested in youth and it is good to see these 18 and 19-year-olds coming through.

“As for Sarah’s journey, well it has just been great to see. She has been involved with the club since the minis and her real strength as she has grown up, apart from her obvious rugby ability, has been her mind. She is someone who works incredibly hard and has a growth mindset, there is a leader there too and the Scotland coaching team have obviously seen those qualities to pick her so young.

“To see her get called-up for a Scotland 7s appearance earlier this year and then go on the recent XVs tour to South Africa was excellent for everyone connected with the club – now we hope she can go on and get a full cap in the near future.”

  • Biggar v Watsonians takes place in Tennent’s National League Division One at Hartreemill at 2pm on Saturday

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About Gary Heatly 437 Articles
Gary has loved rugby ever since he can remember and since 2004 he has covered the sport and others in a professional capacity for many publications and websites and runs his own company, GH Media.

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