by JACK NIXON
ONE of the most progressive clubs in the North East is enjoying a resurgence after years of underachieving thanks to a change of attitude in its senior squad, who have now lost only once in the last 26 games.
Ellon Rugby, who stunned the Caley area in the late 1990s and early 2000s by winning six consecutive promotions, are back on song in BT Caledonia League Division 2 North, sitting nine points clear of local rivals Garioch. They have also reached the semi-finals of the Caledonia Regional Bowl.
Remarkably, the Aberdeenshire club has achieved its recent success with an all Ellon based squad, in stark contrast to the glory years of over a decade ago when players from all over the region were attracted to the Meadows.
All but two of the 21 players involved in last month’s 36-10 victory over Deeside were products of the club’s youth system.
Equally surprisingly, the current coach, Sam Mountain is one of the youngest coaches in the game at 26, and has already won the plaudits of more senior coaches, including one of the most respected, Eric Strachan, formerly of Aberdeenshire, where Mountain was a scrum-half.
”Sam was always a quick learner, and keen to analyse each game. He was also a good reader of the game from his position of scrum-half before he picked up a serious leg injury, ending his playing career at the age of 24,” said Strachan.
“I am delighted to see him making such a success of coaching. He has a good attitude and will go far in the game. We’re all pleased to see Ellon back on track to go back to the top Caley league. It seems like just yesterday when they were in the national leagues, and if I recall had a short spell in what was then called Premiership Three.”
Strachan, who is now forwards coach with National League Division Three side Gordonians, also recalled an occasion when Ellon gave Premiership One giants Melrose a tough test in the Scottish Cup.
”They even led 10-3 at half-time. If Sam can do half as much in his time at the Meadows he will do well. I wish him luck. The game needs aspiring coaches like him,” he said.
Mountain was suitably modest about his career so far as a coach.
”I am ambitious for both the club and myself but it’s the squad who must take the credit. They have taken us to the top of the table after a change of attitude midway through last season when they all agreed to a commit to getting fitter, while also improving playing standards,” he explained.
“We are getting our rewards as a result of our commitment. This is a proud club with a very active under0age section of which I was a member. We are also a community orientated club, owing much to former president Archie Park, who had a vision which took the club to two Murrayfield finals. I’d like to think I am only taking up the baton that Archie and others handed on.”
“At the moment, we are taking one game at a time, including our semi-final game on January 27t when we meet Aberdeen University. In the meantime, we are enjoying the Autumn Test break, though we are still in training.”
The Caley leagues may just be the foothills of the national game, but the impression is that young Mountain is on a mission, set to climb even further in his time with the Meadows club, and would relish a return to Murrayfield to emulate the feats of former coaches Alex Duncan and Kevin Wyness.