TEAMS in National League Division 3 should be aware that Caithness, the division’s newcomers, intend to make it tough for visitors to Thurso, the most northerly outpost of rugby in mainland Scotland, this season.
Tom McGee, the head coach, and former player at Millbank, has outlined his strategy for making the attractive little ground in the town a fortress to be feared by visiting teams, many of whom will have come from central Scotland and further afield believing, once they get to Inverness the journey is all but over.
“They will then discover, there are over 100 miles to go before they get to Thurso. If they think Orkney is a tough trip, they’ll soon discover a visit to Caithness is no picnic, but the journey is only one part of it, we then intend they should have a horrible experience on the pitch, although off it, we will be offering the best of northern hospitality,” said the former Border Reivers and Scotland A prop.
The uncompromising 38-year-old has taken the team to the national leagues on the back of a defence strategy that was too much for sides in the Caledonian divisions.
“No points against is always good,” he asserted. “We’ll play to our strengths. It’s only fair to say, the whole squad has improved over the last two seasons. The challenge for us is to repeat the success we enjoyed in Caley One, against teams who will be sure to test us, especially on the road.
“Everything is in place for a good crack at National League 3 where we will encounter physical, mental and emotional stress. Finding out about ourselves is part of the exercise. We know where we want to be, this season will determine if we have the quality and the resolve to get there.”
Among the players to watch in a squad of both experienced and young players will be scrum-half Kris Hamilton – the Caledonia player-of-the-year last season – and his half back partner and captain Marc Anderson, who needs only a handful of points to break the club record, plus centre Dougie Webster, who masterminds that formidable defence.
Up front, the predatory skills of the experienced Evan Sutherland will trouble most defences they are likely to encounter anywhere in the division, while with line-out leader Grant Anderson will aim to secure a regular source of good possession.
Recruiting new players is always hard for the Milllbank side, but this season McGee reckons he has found gold in new hooker Calum Hill. “He brings enthusiasm and leadership to the side, and he will be a source of inspiration to our youngsters,” he said.
Among the young players, pushing for regular places will Mike McGregor, Lewis Kay, Jack McLeod, Reece Mowat, and Craig Kennedy.
Significantly, despite its huge travel commitments Caithness have a sound financial backing, as consequence of good, reliable sponsors who see the value of the contribution the club makes to the town and county. “At a time when amateur clubs are likely to be severely pushed, I am happy to say we are in a good place,” said McGee.
While McGee looks forward to making Millbank a “horrible” place to visit, the team were gives a tough reminder of how big a challenge they face in fulfilling their away fixtures with a 52-22 defeat at Peebles in the League Cup last weekend, and must now follow that up with a trip to Newton Stewart when the league season gets under way this coming Saturday. “All in a weekend’s work,” concluded the coach.