OVER recent years, we have watched Marr make the jump up from the regional leagues to the Tennent’s Premiership – and Jamie Shedden made that step-up himself in the summer to join the Troon outfit from Kilmarnock.
The way Marr have progressed from the West leagues through to the top flight is one of the most fascinating stories in Scottish club rugby over the last decade or so.
And although the club’s playing base is mainly made up of homegrown talent, they have also been keen to give a platform to young players from nearby areas to perform against the likes of Currie Chieftains, Edinburgh Accies and Hawick.
It is the Chieftains who come calling at Fullarton Park on Saturday as second plays first in a mouth-watering clash (2pm) – and winger/centre Shedden is hoping to have a key role to play.
“During the summer I got a message from one of the players at Marr asking me if I fancied giving pre-season with them a go and joining the club,” explains the 21-year-old, who has scored four league tries so far this season and has twice made The Offside Line’s Premiership Dream Team. “I then had a chat with 1st XV captain Conor Bickerstaff and liked what he had to say, so I headed down to training and have never looked back really.
“Having been at my local club Kilmarnock, where I knew everyone in the 1st XV squad and grew up with a lot of them, it could have been a bit daunting going into a well-established playing group at Marr, but I must say that everyone made me feel welcome straight away.
“Obviously the jump from the West leagues, where I have been used to playing with Kilmarnock, to the Premiership was a big one and I have had lots of things to work on, but once I got my first game for Marr under my belt I had something to build from and have just been working hard since.
“Craig Redpath [Marr’s head coach] has been very good with me while I have put in the yards with backs coach Kenny Diffenthal on a few parts of my game, positioning being a big one that he has helped me out with.
“There are lots of senior backs around like Conor, his brother Scott and Colin Sturgeon to help me out too and they have kept me right.
“I have really been enjoying the challenge of testing myself against some very good teams over the last few months and we particularly enjoy playing at home, the Marr support always get right behind us.
“We will need that on Saturday because Currie are a good side who beat us quite convincingly at their place earlier in the season [38-12 on 11th September].
“Since then we have improved as a squad a lot though, as the majority of results have shown, while the recent mini break [they last played on 6th November] has allowed us to refresh and get rid of a few niggles so we are raring to go.
“Obviously we will miss Conor [the centre has suffered a full rupture of his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and is out for the season], but we feel we have the squad depth to cope and want to build into this next period of games with an amount of confidence.”
Shedden, who is currently working with his father Alan as a joiner, played a bit of football growing up, but was always around rugby from the time he joined the Kilmarnock mini section.
“It was great coming through the different age-grades with Killie and I had good fun with my friends,” the man who left Grange Academy in 2018 recounts.
“I progressed up to the under-18s and then I was given my chance in the 1st XV as a teenager. That was quite a steep learning curve because suddenly you were playing against some old heads and some big units, but thankfully I also had some old heads and big units in my team and they looked after me out there on the pitch!
“From that point onwards I was involved with the Killie 1st XV until the pandemic came and then this opportunity arose with Marr which I was keen to take.
“My dad is a big football man, but even he has converted to rugby and comes to watch me in most of my games, so I must be doing something right!
“Jokes aside, I am just trying to embrace the challenges that being at Marr poses me and am trying to contribute in a positive way to the team.”