2024 Community and Recognition Awards winners

2024 Community and Recognition Awards winners

The 2024 Community and Recognition Awards were held last night at Scottish Gas Murrayfield. Here's a run down of how the night played out.

Headlined by the Club of the Year and Spirit of Rugby awards, Scottish Rugby’s annual awards evening for club rugby ran on Saturday 24 May.

About 150 people from clubs all over Scotland attended the evening, enjoying a three course meal and celebrating some of the many community heroes.

Ben Healy and Harry Paterson took some time to chat to host Caroline Blair in a Q+A format.

Top winners on the night included Dalkeith RFC for Club of the Year, and Bernie Mitchell took home the Spirit of Rugby award.

National Young Person Award – Murrin Thomson, Balfron High School/Strathendrick

Coaching a variety of teams and even taking on the role of team manager, she has played a huge part in growing playing numbers in her local area. 

She has been devoted to providing equal opportunities for girls in rugby, and has lead a response in her community to period poverty by ensuring sanitary products are available for female players in the teams she is involved with. 

As well as working with her own club and school, she has also endeavoured to help out across her region, providing playing opportunities for children in rural areas and encouraging primary school pupils towards club rugby.


Volunteer of the Season, Youth – Steven Halliday, Dalkeith RFC

Alongside his role as Director of Youth Rugby, he coaches the club’s U18 side. After more than 10 years without an U18 team, this person’s dedication to growing the game has played a part in the club now having 36 registered players at that age group. 

In 2023, he lead the U18 side to the club’s first national youth final in their history, and also set up the club’s first school of rugby, offering the game to children from many different backgrounds across the primary and secondary setting.  

He has personally supported the youth players, delivering first aid courses, running mental health workshops and encouraging the pupils into supporting the running of the club. 


Volunteer of the Season, Schools, sponsored by Saltire Energy – Ross Ledger, Braes High School

Ross started the rugby set up at Braes High School from scratch eight years ago. 

Striving to create an inclusive opportunity for all age groups across the school, he has implemented a ‘one squad’ mentality which has resulted in participation from students from all cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. 

He also provides kit and extra events on top of the rugby programme and supports all aspects of student wellbeing. 

Pupils have highlighted inclusivity, a motivating environment, constructive feedback and the fact they always learn something new as main reasons why they keep coming back to this person’s sessions. 


Volunteer of the Season, Adult – Jason Conlin, Stewarts Melville College RFC

Jason has been credited as someone who used experiences they picked up whilst living abroad to give back to their local community when they returned to Scotland and their home club of Stewarts Melville College RFC.

Community days at his club, which he has organised, are free and involve an inclusive, multi-sport programme of fun events for children aged 4-14 with any disability and their siblings. 

This brings together the club Community Sponsors, young adults from two local schools and representatives from other sports organisations.  

The young people acting as Sports Leaders for the events receive appropriate training and can count the Community Days towards their Duke of Edinburgh Awards.


Community Match Official of the Season, Johnny Sims

Johnny is someone who has turned his attentions towards becoming a referee to ensure he was still contributing and involved in rugby, effectively juggling work life to officiate multiple matches every weekend. 

His commitment to refereeing has seen him gain a wide breadth of experience of officiating in different competitions, refereeing in National 3, National 4, Women’s Premiership, FOSROC U17, U18 National Cups (club and school), school games from S1 to U18 and at Midi level. 

He has been assistant at a Glasgow Warriors Women Celtic Challenge match, as well as in the U17 FOSROC Championship and for Strathclyde University Men’s First XV. 

His considerable progress in officiating in such a short space of time has seen him join the National Panel of Referees. Unfortunately, Johnny couldn’t join us on the night.


Men’s National League Player of the Season, Craig Shepherd, Aberdeen Grammar

Picked from nominated players from across all four of our Men’s National Leagues, Craig stood out for his stellar individual performances in National League Division 2, with nine Player of the Match awards across the season.


Women’s National League Player of the Season, Merryn Gunderson, Corstorphine Cougars

Merryn has been a standout in the Premiership, winning seven Player of the Match awards across the season and scoring four tries. 

Off the back of her performances for her club, she was selected for Edinburgh Rugby in the Celtic Challenge and then earned a first call up for Scotland during the Guinness Women’s Six Nations. 


Men’s Regional Leagues Player of the Season, Robbie Colman, Kilmarnock RFC

Robbie has been praised for his consistently outstanding individual performances by his club. 

The club saw him as key to their survival in West Regional League Division 1, and he earned eight Player of the Match awards across the season. 


Women’s Regional Leagues Player of the Season, Emma McKinnon, Dundee Rugby Club

Emma has had an excellent season in Caledonia Midlands/East region league Division 1. In her 15 appearances, she was awarded Player of the Match on five different occasions.


National Leagues Match Official of the Season, Rob McDowell

This award recognises a match official who has been outstanding in the National Leagues this year.  

Rob has been consistently allocated the highest level of the domestic game. and has been recognised for his positive attitude towards coaching and continued professional development.  

Rob has come through the Edinburgh society, promoted from society to the national panel two years ago and has made rapid progress towards high performance fixtures ever since. 

He has officiated at the Under-18 Men’s Six Nations in Italy, he has AR’d in the Under-20 Men’s Six Nations, had two AR appointments in EPCR fixtures, has AR’d in the URC, and regularly officiates in the Super Series and the Men’s Premiership. 


Men’s Try of the Season, Finlee Horton, Dunfermline Rugby Club

We’ve been treated to a try-packed season with some fantastic individual and team scores, and our Try of the Month winners have given a taste of the skills and attacking flair that has been on show across the country this season. 

Dunfermline showed their fantastic ability to throw the ball across the pitch and exploit space with a series of offloads carrying play from within their half right to the try line, with flanker Finlee Horton crashing over the whitewash for the score.


Women’s Try of the Season, Jen Treacy, Bishopton

The Bishopton full-back demonstrated both her speed and skill in this try, gathering the ball from her team-mate at the ruck before making her way around the defence along the left wing before putting in a beautiful chip through and gathering to dot down for the try!

Treacy also picked up two Player of the Match awards this season.


Community Club of the Season – Dalkeith RFC

With rugby opportunities for all ages, from rugby introductions for 2–5-year-olds to walking rugby for those who aren’t as able, but still have the passion for the game, Dalkeith is this season’s club of the year.

A key aim for the club is to keep the cost of participation as low as possible. The local area falls into the 10% most deprived areas in Scotland so memberships start from as little as £1 a week. The club also have a bootbank where those who potentially can’t afford boots of their own can still participate regardless.

The launch of their school of rugby has aimed to offer rugby to as many pupils as possible, opening the door to pupils who have never had the opportunity to play before. Improvement in physical and mental wellbeing has been noticed because of this, with 10 new players joining their girl’s youth section.

The club also launched their first women’s side in 15 years, who compete in the Aspire league with over 20 currently active players.


Spirit of Rugby, Bernie Mitchell, Hillhead Jordanhill

Actively volunteering at Hillhead Sports Club for over 45 years and previous winner of Glasgow Sport Person of the Year Lifetime achievement Award, Bernie is an inspiration to us all.  

A passionate volunteer who has held nearly every committee role across both Rugby and Cricket and his drive and enthusiasm has been vital to the club’s sustainability and development in areas such as volunteer recruitment, partners/schools links and not to mention many successful funding bids and fundraising events. 

An advocate for women’s rugby and instrumental in establishing the women’s rugby team in 1995, which went onto win the Sarah Beaney Cup and Scottish League – and have won many accolades since.

If Bernie is not driving the activities of the clubs he is supporting, he is mentoring those who are. The life and soul of Hillhead Sports Club and a true community champion. 

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