IT would be stretching it to claim that the rebranding of the team over the summer to become Currie Chieftains has been the most important factor in the club’s rip-roaring start to the season, because that would overlook all the hard work which has gone into assembling an exciting young squad capable of hitting the ground running after emerging wiser and stronger from the steep learning curve they scrambled up last year.
However, head coach Ben Cairns is in no doubt that the Chieftains innovation has added serious impetus to what he and his players are trying to achieve on the park, by ushering in a change in mind-set as much as a change in image.
“From a coaching perspective, what it has done is bring a new, positive energy to the club. Everybody at Malleny has been part of the process,” he says. “Whereas quite often players concentrate on training and playing while the rest of the stuff just happens around them, what we have managed to do is create a sense ownership and responsibility. I think it has helped focus the players’ minds on what they are representing and how important it is to a lot of people.”
“The boys are just really enjoying themselves as part of an exciting new episode in the club’s history. They have been getting their photos taken in the new strips, filling out questionnaires for their profile on the new website, and Grant Williamson – who is a member of our senior squad – is doing a great job with the social media side of things. So, they feel like their profile has been boosted a bit and that really helps morale.”
“From a broader perspective, it has got the club as a whole more accepting of change, which is really important if you want to keep developing and pushing forward,” he continues.
“We had a new gym installed over the summer and we’ve refurbished the upstairs bar – I really don’t think either of those things would have happened if we hadn’t gone through the re-branding process, because it just created that environment where people want to give up their time to help the cause.”
Fergus Scott, who is the club’s development officer as well as 1st XV co-captain, has launched a women’s rugby section, which will take time to grow but sends an important message out about what the Chieftains stand for. An added emphasis has also been put on creating a closer connection between the junior and senior arms of the club.
“It is about opening the door to people who previously didn’t see any reason to get engaged with what we are trying to do,” says social media guru and events co-ordinator Williamson. “We won the league twice a few years back and everything was great. The club was busy then but things were beginning to drop. The change in drink-driving laws really had an effect on us because we are out on a bit of a limb in Balerno so a lot or people have to bring their car, and we could feel the drop-off in numbers in the clubhouse, not just in terms of bar takings but in the general vibe of the place. So we knew we needed to do something to revitalise the club, and a big part of this is about creating other reasons for people to come along and find out what we have to offer.”
“A local marketing agency called Scooter Digital – run by club member Mark Flett and his business partner Gordon Sayers – provided professional support for the re-branding process, and they really did a great job,” Williamson adds.
“I’ve been driving the social media, John Cox [1st XV prop] has been doing the commercial side and we are really making progress with getting new sponsors and advertisers on board, our chairman Charles Mullins and our president Phil Thomas have backed it all the way, and the late Greco Hogg [who was chairman of the rugby board before his untimely death last month] was a massive part of this.”
Hogg’s enormous contribution to the club is recognised on the new strips [which are made by Mizuno and supplied by GPE Team Sports] with his name embroidered onto the bottom right hand corner.
“If ever the boys are struggling and need to dig deep then they can look down and see that and it will give them all the incentive they need,” says Cairns. “Greco would have loved that – he was all about getting players in the right frame of mind to play well.”
Both Cairns and Williamson stress that this is not about throwing out the old and focussing solely on the new. The original club badge and 1970 formation date is embroidered onto the bottom left of the new strips, and a number six is enclosed within the rugby ball which features under the chieftain’s feather on the new badge – which is a nod towards Bob Kirkwood, Jack Hogg, Roger McLaren, Tom Chandler, David Bisset and Alex Galbraith, who were the ‘famous six’ founding members in the Weaver’s Knowe pub some 47 plus years ago.
This latest step-change in the colourful history of Currie rugby is surely in keeping with pioneering spirit of those founding fathers, and with two swashbuckling wins from two outings in the league so far there is no shortage of positive energy floating around Malleny Park at the moment to persuade any doubting traditionalists that things are indeed moving in the right direction.
The team head to Meggetland this Saturday to take on a Boroughmuir side desperate to kick-start their season after a tricky first fortnight, then play crunch matches against last year’s champions Ayr, followed by fellow pace-setters Melrose, Glasgow Hawks and Stirling County on consecutive Saturdays. A daunting a month in store then, but the Chieftains are approaching the challenges ahead in fine fettle.