BOROUGHMUIR rugby club celebrates its centenary this season and it is marking the anniversary by doing something completely new.
As one of the foundation teams in the SRU’s new Super6 league which launches this weekend, the Meggetland outfit has been charged with serving as a finishing school for some of the country’s best young players as they look to move into the professional game – but Graham Shiel, head coach of the Boroughmuir Bears franchise, says that signing up for the new league is about much more than just that.
He believes that the new part-time professional team which will host the new competition’s curtain-raiser against Stirling County at Meggetland on Friday night must be the focal point for the club to spread its roots through the local catchment area and further afield, so that rugby continues to flourish at the club for the next 100 years.
“The rugby side of things is business as normal – it hasn’t been too much of a challenge getting the players to buy into the culture of what this league is all about,” said Shiel.
“Off the pitch is where the real changes are happening because it is a huge undertaking. It is about trying to galvanise the club as a whole and making sure that it is robust enough to sustain its being for the next five, ten, fifteen years, and beyond.
“It is a really important year for the club as it’s our centenary, and hopefully Super6 is a real shot in the arm in terms of something slightly new and progressive – something for the kids in our development programmes to aspire to.
“There is definitely a real purpose around the club, and the work that has been going on behind the scenes to support the squad and support Super6 as a whole is phenomenal.
“It is really encouraging. Having grown up in the Borders, I see that same sort of community drive to make it happen,” added the former Melrose and Scotland centre, who has had coaching stints with the SRU academy and the Scotland 7s squad.
“We’re looking to encourage people to be more connected to the club, whether it is during the week using the facilities, or as a spectator on match day. It is about becoming more a part of the community than the club has had the opportunity to be recently.
“I feel I have a responsibility to not just coach the Super6 team but also support the sustainability of the whole club moving forward. So, Super6 is that catalyst for growing our development programme for kids coming through, so that we can promote from within.”
The Boroughmuir youth section is already one of the strongest in the country, and currently tops the Shogun Conference [whole club], with the Under-18s team claiming the National Youth Cup title last season, but Shiel believes there is still scope for significant growth in terms of the quantity and quality of rugby players coming through the ranks at Meggetland.
“At the moment we draw players from right across the city, right across the Lothians, really, so we need to get a better grip of our immediate catchment area by building stronger relationships with local primary and secondary schools,” he said.
“We have not produced too many players of our own for a number of years, so one of the big things for our Super6 team is to inspire our young players, so they see a pathway all the way through the club on route to playing for Edinburgh or Glasgow, and then maybe even into the Scotland team.”
“It is quite an ambitious programme, but we are excited about the plans we have to support and accelerate player development.”
Boroughmuir are one of three clubs based in Edinburgh, and Shiel admits that has made recruitment challenging ahead of this inaugural season, but he believes that he has ultimately managed to pull together a squad which will be competitive.
“It has not been easy but I’m delighted with the group of guys we’ve got and I’m absolutely confident that they will continue to work hard and continue to improve,” he said. “I think they are ready for the challenge now, and it is great for the club as a whole to get the opportunity to open the tournament with a Friday night game at Meggetland.
“The game on Friday brings into sharp focus what my primary job is, but there is a bigger picture here for us as a squad and for the club,” he reiterated. “It is not just about that Super6 programme, it is about the wider club and the community – developing players, promoting from within and making sure we have a stronger, more sustainable club in the long term.”