WHITECRAIGS may be bottom of the National League Division Two table, but with 10 league games remaining their young squad certainly believe they can get out of the current sticky situation.
In 2018-19 the Newton Mearns-based outfit managed to win five league games to finish in 10th place as Lasswade and Howe of Fife dropped down a level. After that campaign, a number of experienced heads retired, and during that summer a new coaching team of head coach Ian Hamilton and his assistant Brandon Wamberg took up their posts.
As a result, 2019-20 was always going to be a year when young players were going to have to step up to the mark and become key characters in the first XV.
And while the team has won just one league game and drawn one from 12 so far – beating Gordonians in September after drawing with Preston Lodge on the opening day – the heads have not dropped. The tight-knit group believe they have what it takes to make up the eight points between them and Falkirk in 10th and get out of the relegation zone.
If they are to do that in their next 10 games then this Saturday’s home match with ninth placed Glasgow Accies, who are nine points ahead of them having played two more matches, is a crucial one.
“We have a young squad just now, we have had a lot of boys step-up and this is their first season in senior rugby, but we know we have the ability in the group to get results if we play to our full potential,” said 20-year-old forward Jack Ramage. “A lot of us are still on a learning curve and it can be frustrating because we train really well during the week and play well in patches of matches, but then our levels drop off and we really need those 80 minute performances.
“For example, last Saturday at Gordonians [when they eventually went down 38-15 to the side in 11th place in the league], we did well in the first half and I was feeling pretty good about things, but then ill-discipline cost us. So, we need to keep our heads and keep our structure throughout games.
“We certainly still have belief that we can stay up, we are motivated and will put a lot of effort into the next few months.”
Ramage played at Marr when he was very young, but joined Whitecraigs when he was seven and became hooked, playing at the West Lodge club and at Belmont House School as he grew up.
“I loved playing through the different youth levels at the club and I have made a lot of mates here who I am now in the 1st XV with, so I really enjoy that,” the Glasgow University politics third year student explained. “When I left school I was just 17 so I played another year of under-18s, and then did the next pre-season with the senior squad and things have gone from there.
“I was on the bench for a few games at the start of last season and then managed to get a starting spot and I have been in and around the 1st XV squad since then barring injury. As a hooker stepping up to senior rugby was obviously a challenge because you are playing against bigger guys who are more experienced, but the challenge was good and I took a lot of learnings from last season.
“I started to put a lot more time into my rugby, my strength and conditioning, scrummaging, line-out throwing and putting a bit of weight on. The sports therapist the club has access to, Ryan O’Neill, has been great with the boys helping us get gym programmes that work for us individually and for different positions.”
Another 20-year-old, Graham Murchie, has been in and around the first team squad since he was in his final year at school. And, like Ramage, the back has belief that the team can get some positive results in the coming weeks.
“We are just trying to gel together and really click, everyone is putting in the hard yards to make that happen and we know that,” the inside centre stated. “As a young squad, if we can battle to stay up this time around then the next few years could be really good at Whitecraigs.
“The club has a great buzz from the junior section right through to the seniors and we just have to put the first part of the season behind us now and focus on the next 10 games starting with a big one against Glasgow Accies at the weekend.”
Murchie has been playing at Whitecraigs since he was around four or five years old. “My dad used to take my older brother along and I was always watching him play and running around on the sidelines so as soon as I could get a rugby ball in my hands I was happy,” the former Eastwood High School pupil stated.
“I have been at the club ever since and it is great now being in the 1st XV with guys like Jack who I have grown up with. When I was in sixth year at school I played my first few senior games on the wing and really enjoyed it, I managed to score on my first appearance for the 1st XV which was nice too.”
Murchie feels that the backline is coming along on assistant coach Wamberg’s watch. “Brandon previously played with us and he goes into things in great detail to help you work on things, he is thorough and good at explaining things,” said the Cardonald College apprentice electrician.
“He also helps us out with gym programmes and with our confidence when perhaps we haven’t had a great result and that is brilliant because it keeps us all working hard and for each other.”
- Whitecraigs take on Glasgow Accies in National League Division Two at West Lodge at 2pm on Saturday
How it stands –