DUNDEE CITY 7S will take place tomorrow at Alloway Place, marking the launch of a new club created by the amalgamation of Dundee High and Morgan during lockdown. The minis and junior tournaments kick-off at 9am, while the senior competition starts at 12 noon.
“It has been an absolute nightmare to organise, to be honest, with having to deal with all the regulations around Covid, but we were determined to do something to launch the new club so we’ve battled on and we’re almost there,” said Director of Rugby Colin Sangster earlier this week. “We’ve just had a couple of junior team call off and I guess we’ll maybe have a few more before Saturday morning, but it is what it is.”
“The biggest problem is the changing rooms and the showers. We’ve got 24 teams coming on Saturday and we want them to stay afterwards and join us for a beer and some craic, but at the same time we’re telling them they can’t have a shower, so I don’t know whether we should be praying for sun or for rain to give them a good rinse!”
It is the kind of challenge clubs the length and breadth of the country are going to have to tackle as the grassroots sport fights its way back from lockdown.
The bigger picture is the amalgamation. It is a move which both clubs have danced around for several years, but Sangster believes that it is a vital step towards re-energising the game in Scotland’s fourth biggest city.
“We first started talking about this three or four years ago and at that time we entered into a collaboration with Morgan,” explained Sangster. who fulfilled a number of roles with Dundee High pre-lockdown including head coach and development officer. “At that time, Morgan were struggling to field a team at all but they have a good facility up there, whereas we at Dundee High have great facilities but don’t own them and in the last couple of years we saw our numbers dropping as well, so it became increasingly obvious that we needed to address that.”
“In the last season before lockdown, when we finished bottom of National One but avoided relegation because the campaign was declared null and void, we were struggling to pull together a front-row if we had a couple of injuries, so that was not where we wanted to be.
“And that was the backdrop to deciding that the collaboration should become a merger, with the key point being that it wasn’t just putting two first teams together and hoping that suddenly solves all our problems. What we have done is designed to tackle the challenges we face at all levels of the game, from minis and junior sections right through to the senior women and senior men’s sections. Next year the club is going to have 20 rugby teams, all playing under the banner of Dundee Rugby.
“We’ve had a massive recruitment campaign, mainly on social media, to get women playing,” he added. “Before lockdown we had about a dozen women training so we were on the verge of a team but not quite there yet, whereas we now have about 70 players on the books and sometimes up to 40 or 50 girls at training. We have entered a league [Tennents Caledonia Midlands/East] and we’re hoping to put out a development team as well
“In girls rugby, we’ve got an under-18 team and new players have come in at under-16 and under-14, so we don’t quite have full teams yet but that’s an important part of our development plan and we’re making progress there.
“In senior men we have a 1st XV, 2nd XV and hopefully a development team in below that. We have a young squad and an enthusiastic coaching set-up led by Alan Brown – a former player and larger than life character – who has done a really good job in engaging the players and building up numbers at training as and when restriction have allowed.
“And then we have teams all the way through from primary one up to under-18, so hopefully that ticks all the boxes in terms of rugby development and having a sustainable future.
“In that sense, it [lockdown] has been a really positive period for us. We certainly haven’t sat on our hands and wasted the opportunity – we’ve made the most of it on and off the field.”
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There is always a danger in a situation like this that the final product ends up being less than the sum of the two constituent parts, and Sangster says that a key strand of the strategic plan for the new club is preserving the identity of both parent institutions so that it doesn’t just become another friendly takeover.
“Maintaining the history of both clubs is key,” he said. “We’re not going to be taking down old photos and throwing them into bucket. It helps that our first President is Derek Black, who was a Morgan guy and then President at Dundee High because his background and personalty makes him the ideal figurehead for this.
“Having said that, modern rugby clubs are very different from the rugby clubs most of us older guys grew up with and we want to ultimately create the best amateur club in Scotland by engaging with the wider community, reaching out across the city to find new players and supporters moving forward.
“Dundee is the fourth largest city in Scotland. People always say to me that it is a football city, and it is true that they have two teams in the Premier League, but there are only 11 players in a football team. You drive round Dundee and there are kids kicking a football everywhere, but there are plenty of folk out there who I believe will find that they like what rugby offers them, so it is about how we engage with them.
“We’ve got a new development officer at the club, Andrew Hamilton, and his remit is to get out into the schools and engage with the kids who just need a reason to pick up a rugby ball and decide for themselves if they like the sport.
“Facilities is a big thing moving forward,” he added. “It is not ideal having a split site arrangement, but having said that we have two good facilities we can use, which is two more than some other clubs, so it’s not a terrible position to be in.
“We might have the first team playing at Mayfield, the second team and the women’s team playing at Morgan, and we envisage most of the youth stuff being at Morgan. However, that is something we will have to address going forward.
“I would love us to have our own iconic home, like the Greenyards or Bridgehaugh. Mayfield falls into that category because it is a very scenic ground, but it is quite small.”
This weekend’s tournament will be played at Morgan’s traditional home of Alloway Place. Tickets are available HERE.
“We really wanted to do a major event – or as major as we were allowed – to launch the concept of the new club and engage with rugby people again, so everyone is excited and looking forward to Saturday,” concluded Sangster.
“We’ve done a lot of work up there in the last few weeks in terms of tidying the place up, preparing the pitches, cutting back the hedges and painting the clubhouse, so it’s looking good.”