Breadalbane Finance Community Rugby Story Of The Month … Perthshire

Former Edinburgh and Scotland stars Stuart McInally and James Johnstone put the squad through their paces on the North Inch

There was a big turn out at training on the North Inch on the Thursday night before the Calcutta Cup match for Perthshire Rugby club, who are the Breadalbane Finance Community Rugby Story Of The Month. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
There was a big turn out at training on the North Inch on the Thursday night before the Calcutta Cup match for Perthshire Rugby club, who are the Breadalbane Finance Community Rugby Story Of The Month. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

HOW do you measure success? Perthshire may already be relegated from National League Four this season with three games still left to play (including Greenock Wanderers at home this Saturday) but the sight of over 80 bodies training on the North Inch on the Thursday night before a Calcutta Cup match (i.e. a non club game weekend) suggests that the overall health of the club is not reflected in the men’s 1st XV’s recent results.

The presence of former Scotland and Edinburgh hooker Stuart McInally and former Scotland 7s and Edinburgh centre James Johnstone undoubtedly helped coax a few extra trainers along for the session which has been arranged as part of Perthshire’s Breadalbane Finance Community Rugby Story Of The Month award, however the slickness with which the whole evening was organised by the resident coaching team affirmed that these sorts of numbers are not a complete anomaly.

“It is about how you define success,” agrees Graham ‘Smudge’ Smith, the director of rugby at Perthshire, who has the uncanny knack of being able to see the glass as half full and half empty at the same time.


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“Is it about league position? Well, yes, to an extent. My job spec is to get the 1st XV promoted – without a doubt – and that’s what we all want. But off the pitch we are always striving to be better as a club in engaging with our community.

“We’ve got a fantastic culture here, in the mini section we are pushing towards two teams at every age-group, while in the midi section we are putting 27 boys’ names on the team-sheet every match and we have to rotate the squad sometimes to make sure everybody gets game time.

“So, while results for the senior men’s team have been disappointing at times this season, I would describe this as a resurgent period for the club, because our fortunes have ebbed and flowed like it does for most clubs of our size.”

The key, as far as Smith is concerned, is to smooth out those peaks and troughs so that Perthshire can settle into a steady upward climb.

“My other role is as a senior development officer for Scottish Rugby [part funded by the club alongside Scottish Rugby and Perth & Kinross Council] working in the local schools, and pre-covid we had around 400 school kids playing rugby whilst post-Covid we have less than a 100,” he reveals. “So, we are having to grow that back in the schools, and that inevitably has a knock-on effect with the number of junior members in the club. With that in mind, the product we are offering on training nights has to be good or people just won’t come.

“Because my job is to make the club better it is very easy to look at the things that are not working and not see the good things,” Smith continues. “But when you are down here on a Sunday morning and you’ve got loads and loads of kids and parents all getting stuck in, then midi games for the under-13s, 14s and 15s, followed by the women’s game in the afternoon, it is brilliant.

“The development team is out in all the [local] schools. We’ve just finished a block at Perth Grammar which was quite a challenge because we were trying to break a strong football mentality, but we had an after-school club start this week with 16 kids turning up to it from the work we’ve done in there, so hopefully we can grow that.

“We’ve got a pathways for girls programme running as well, with lunchtime and afterschool clubs to try to reach the under-14s, 16s and 18s age-groups, and we’ve got a women’s section. So, we are trying to grow that side of the club to sustainable levels, and the big challenge is getting to that critical mass which makes coaching meaningful.

“We’ve got about 27 girls at Auchterarder playing – we’ve resurrected that programme – and we’ve got an S1/2 structured competition in the region as well, which is all driven by the club.

“University of Highlands and Islands have a campus in Perth and we’ve been supporting them by offering placement opportunities for their sports students if, for example, they need to go out and do a coaching session. They’ve also formed a small rugby club that they want to get into some sort of competition. It is very fledgling, but we’ve invited them down tonight to integrate with our under-18s.”

 

 

While relegation is always tough to swallow, Smith remains upbeat about where the men’s 1st XV should be setting its sights.

“It is not beyond the realms of possibility,” he replies, when asked if the Premiership is a realistic target, reasoning that Perth is a big town, with an even bigger catchment area, and that the club has a strong infrastructure.

“Who knows what the leagues are going to look like next year with the current uncertainty over the Super Series Clubs XVs, but it is certainly not beyond our reach to be National League Two or One.

“Some of the games we’ve played this season, we’ve looked like a team who should be playing a league higher, but there has been a catalogue of situations like not managing the game well, yellow-cards at bad times, not maintaining momentum in the game, naivety on the pitch from a young squad, and so on.

“There are no out and out senior guys – we have players in their mid-20s who are considered the old heads – so it is a young squad, but the great thing about tough experiences is that you can learn from them.

“Certainly, Perthshire as a club has ambitions to be sitting up at the top table as much as we can. There are five clubs in Perthshire and what we need to be looking at is positioning ourselves as the premier club in the area.”

 

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There is, however, a recognition that enhancing and modernising existing facilities is key to the club realising its ambitions.

“This significant growth, both in our membership and within the wider community, has prompted the realisation that our current clubhouse and changing facilities are inadequate, and the pitches and lighting require substantial upgrades,” explains club secretary Bob Lindsay.

“Upgrading the pitches is crucial for better training and playing conditions, while additional floodlights are necessary to spread training and matches across a wider area during the winter months, which will provide a consistent playing surface throughout the year and enhance the overall playing experience.

“The changing rooms and toilets need upgrading to accommodate the diverse membership.  Currently, there’s no provision for separate changing areas for adults and children, impacting both men and women, as well as younger players. The overarching goal is to modernise changing facilities for privacy and inclusivity, considering all age groups and genders.

“The currently unused clubhouse is also in need of a refresh to become the vibrant ‘heart of the club’.  This will serve as a central hub for members and visitors and will be used by our mini, midi and senior sections, as well as other sports activities on the North Inch.

“Ultimately, our overarching goal is to make rugby an appealing sport across all segments of our community. Regardless of background or gender, we believe rugby should be open to all. Through our commitment to facility upgrades, development programs, and inclusive practices, Perthshire Rugby aims to be a beacon of inclusivity, growth, and accessibility in the world of rugby.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and while the club plots its major facilities upgrade, it will continue to deliver at ground floor level.

“Our beer festival is coming up in May and we’ve for the Perthshire Sevens that weekend as well, which is a major event we host for the town,” says Smith. “The Perthshire minis-festival is the week before and that’s, to our knowledge, the biggest one in Scotland with about 1,000 kids running about playing rugby all over the Inch. So, we’ve got plenty to be getting on with.”

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  • If you would like to nominate a club to feature in our ‘Breadalbane Finance Community Rugby Story Of The Month’ series then please contact rugby@breadalbanefinance.co.uk.
  • Each successful entrant will receive a rugby-related reward to the value of £500 – kit, equipment, coaching or any other rugby related investment – as well as having an opportunity to tell their story through an in-depth feature on The Offside Line.

 

  • Launched in 2013, Breadalbane Finance is a commercial finance broker, partnering with business owners who want to borrow money for any purpose. Breadalbane Finance goes to the lender market on the client’s behalf to source the right lending product with the right deal that works for the client’s goals.
  • Built on long-standing trusted relationships – both with clients and their advisors – to date Breadalbane has helped 1,500 businesses secure over £500m of funding all over Scotland in a broad range of industries.
  • For more information on how Breadalbane Finance can help your business, contact: Jamie Lindsay on 0131 281 5343 / jamie@breadalbanefinance.co.uk

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About David Barnes 3911 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

4 Comments

  1. For too long the SRU has failed to think out of its Edinburgh-centric box.
    If it is truly the SCOTTISH Rugby UNION, it should show itself as being an inclusive union – the sum of all its parts.

  2. Could Perth not be the centre for a third Pro side with
    matches at Mc Diarmid Park and also in Aberdeen and Inverness to pull in the spectators from the second biggest rugby playing area in Scotland and build on the
    North and Midland success in the 2023 Interdistrict Championship thus creating a further constructive bridge between the Premiership and Pro sides
    We desperately need a third Pro side to give more game time to players in the inflated Edinburgh and Glasgow squads , to redundant but good ex Super 6 players and to promising u20/ 23 players . We could run it on the low cost Connacht model and also from support from slimmmdown SRU HQ costs

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