Community Recognition Awards 2023 | Caledonia North awards announced

Community Recognition Awards 2023 | Caledonia North awards announced

The 2023 Scottish Rugby Community Recognition Award winners from the Caledonia North region have today been announced following their presentation this week.

The Community Recognition Awards is Scottish Rugby’s annual domestic game awards programme, focusing on the on and off-field efforts of clubs and schools across Scotland over the course of the season.

Awards winners were announced for six categories including; Volunteer of the Season in Youth rugby sponsored by inspiresport, Volunteer of the Season in Schools rugby sponsored by inspiresport, Volunteer of the Season in Adult rugby sponsored by Tennent’s Lager, Young Person’s Award sponsored by inspiresport, Community Club of the Season sponsored by Tennent’s Lager, and the Community Match Official of the Season.

Over the course of week (beginning Monday 20 March), Scottish Rugby Regional Managers from Caledonia North have been surprising each winner at their local club or home address to present them with a personalised trophy and prize.

Videos of the surprise award presentations were then shared on the region’s Facebook group for its members to enjoy and celebrate in together.

Scottish Rugby Caledonia North Regional Director, Rudi Urbach said: “As participation in our game continues to increase across our unique region, we must thank the hard-working volunteers for their input, passion, and dedication in helping to grow the game.

“We’re incredibly proud of all our winners, indeed all of our nominees. Our personal, door-step delivery to our award winners has been great fun, met by much appreciation and absolute humility.”

Scottish Rugby President, Colin Rigby added: “As we approach the end of the domestic season, it is really important that we recognise and share our gratitude to the countless volunteers within our sport who make what we do not only possible, but special, fun and enjoyable.

“We received hundreds of applications to the Community Recognition Awards this year, and I know it was a tough job for the Regional Panels to narrow it down to the winners, but it goes to show how many people in Scottish rugby are noticed and appreciated for all they do, and I for one cannot thank them enough.”

The respective award winners and nominees are listed below:

Community Club of the Season sponsored by Tennent’s Lager: Garioch RFC

Garioch RFC of Inverurie is this year’s Community Club of the Season in the Caledonia North region, awarded for their continued commitment to growing the game and engaging with the local community.

Since 2019, the club’s membership has more than doubled to numbers of over 800 players across youth and adult rugby.

In this last year alone, its Women’s team have played in their first Premiership League, whilst the men’s team has continued to grow, boasting a 100 percent fulfilment record in the league, showing both advancement in numbers and playing strength.

The club are now developing a strong pathway for young girls and how have U14, U16 and U18 teams with seven players selected to represent Caledonia North in the Regional Girls Game Series.

In addition, the club continued to partner with Deeside Rugby to facilitate rugby for boys age-groups. From the currently cohort of players, Garioch currently have 11 players progressing with their respective regional Caledonia teams.

Away from the competitive game, the club has this year established walking rugby on a Friday night, which has brought both old faces back and new faces in. Some of the new attendees include residents of the local assisted living facility, who attend every week with their carers.

Walking rugby has been genuinely life changing for one individual in particular, who has overcome some significant speech and language difficulties, which they have credited to their engagement with the sport and the club as a whole.

The club was also recently highlighted by Scottish Rugby during International Women’s Day in recognition of a group of players who have discussed their journey as mothers playing rugby, citing the support they have had from the club to ensure facilities are inclusive of parents.

Volunteer of the Season in Youth rugby sponsored by inspiresport: Stephen McAleer (Lochaber RFC)

Stephen McAleer has picked up the Volunteer of the Season in Youth rugby award for his continuous contribution to the growth and development of youth rugby in the Scottish Highlands.

Stephen leads on the delivery of boys’ and girls’ rugby at Lochaber, linking in regularly with schools in the catchment area to deliver extra-curricular activity.

When he is not delivering coaching, Stephen can be found planning fixtures, trips to take players to watch Scotland men and women play at BT Murrayfield and DAM Health Stadium, or coordinating transport to games. Stephen most recently drove a group of pupils in a minibus in a five hour round trip to Moray RFC to take part in the Caledonia Six Series Finals Day as part of Scottish Rugby Schools Week.

Speaking about Stephen, fellow coach at Lochaber RFC, Becky McCook said: “Stephen goes above and beyond to make sure the teams get regular training as well as game time. He works countless hours behind the scenes organising everything from training to game and trips away to watch Scotland men and woman play.

“Stephen is hardworking and will stop at nothing to give our young people quality experiences, and it’s all done with a smile on his face.”

Volunteer of the Season in Schools rugby sponsored by inspiresport: Sam Martin (Elgin High School) and Hannah Dryden (The Gordon Schools)

The panel had a difficult time selecting a sole winner for Volunteer of the Season in Schools rugby, and so, the award was jointly presented to Sam Martin and Hannah Dryden.

Sam Martin, Deputy Head Teacher at Elgin High School, has been hailed as a key figure in supporting the Caledonia North team in embedding rugby across secondary schools in Moray.

The 37-year-old has been supporting with coaching and rallying other schools in the area to engage in the sport, citing the positive mental and physical benefits.

Sam most recently supported the delivery of the Caledonia North Six Series competition, designed to engage more state schools in rugby. He even pitched up at 7.30am on the Finals Day at Moray RFC last week to help set-up the venue.

Much like Sam, Hannah Dryden, the Head of P.E at the Gordon Schools in Huntly, has been offering significant support and voice to the delivery of rugby, and has played a key role in supporting Scottish Rugby’s education agreement with Aberdeenshire Council, which engaged 17 Academies across the area.

Hannah has also been described as “instrumental” in providing access and supporting Huntly RFC in re-establishing rugby at the Gordon Schools, which has enabled the school to commit to participating in the first formal schools league across Caledonia North next season, which is a first in over 15 years.

Volunteer of the Season in Adult rugby sponsored by Tennent’s Lager: Kelly Bow (Skye RFC) and Erland Drever (Orkney RFC)

Two Island-community volunteers, Kelly Bow and Erland Drever, have been selected as the joint winners of the Volunteer of the Season in Adult rugby.

Erland’s work to re-establish a social rugby initiative at Orkney RFC has been described as having an “absolutely huge impact on the health of its membership”.

Given Orkney’s remote location, a lot of travel is required for men looking to play their rugby on the Island. Identifying this barrier, Erland has arranged for games to be played across multiple locations across the Island, as well as the outer Island of Westray.

More than 100 male players have taken up the opportunity to play regular games scheduled by the loose-head prop, and as result of this renewed interest, there are more players training regularly, with some even pushing their way into the 1XV squad.

In addition to this, Erland also arranged away fixtures for the newly established 2XV including a fixture against the club’s old rivals, Caithness, for the Lyle Cup – of which the Orkney team took home the silverware after many years laying unclaimed.

Speaking about Erland, fellow Orkney RFC member, Glen McLellan said: “Erland’s sheer determination and commitment to ensuring that there is rugby for everyone in Orkney has been faultless. He makes it clear to everyone that it’s okay if you can’t always make training and you only want to play for fun. It’s helped create a buzz around the club and it’s been great to reconnect with people across the Island.”

Skye Rugby club is just one year old, and at the helm of the newly established club is Kelly Bow, the joint winner of the Volunteer of the Season in Adult rugby award.

The club President has spent the last year focusing on delivery of rugby sessions for all ages, and upskilling volunteers through running a Coaching Essentials course on the Island. The young club now has yearly 50 members as a result of her hard work.

Kelly’s determination to see rugby take off in Skye has led them to be selected as a Papa Johns Tartan Touch hub for the first time this year.

When she isn’t supporting rugby delivery, Kelly is focused on fundraising for equipment and hosting events for the club to socialise.

In his nomination of Kelly for the award, Blair Wereschuck, Skye RFC member said: “Kelly has single handily set up the new club on Skye and she works tirelessly to ensure it is a success.”

Young Person’s Award sponsored by inspiresport: Megan Hyland (Mackie RFC)

Megan Hyland of Mackie RFC is this year’s Young Person’s Award winner for the Caledonia North region.

Megan, who is involved in the Scottish Rugby’s age-grade pathway, offers up a significant amount of her time away from her own training to coach young people from mini’s through to boys and girls’ age-grade at the Stonehaven based club.

In addition to this, Megan has also been engaging in Community Sports Hub initiatives in and around Stonehaven supporting delivery and promotion of sport and physical activity.

A spokesperson from the club said: “Megan is passionate about providing opportunities for other young people and children engaging in sport. She is a fantastic role model to the players at Mackie.”

Community Match Official of the Season: Alick Bergman (Deeside Rugby)

Alick Bergman of Deeside Rugby was nominated by his local club alongside the Highland Rugby Referee Society and Aberdeen District Rugby Referee Society.

When the 35-year-old isn’t playing hooker for his Aboyne-based club, Deeside, Alick dedicates his time to the whistle, officiating in games across the region, with particular commitment to youth rugby.

Alick has also played a significant role in supporting the development of aspiring match officials and has been a key contributor in encouraging youth people to pick up the whistle and get involved in refereeing in the region.

A spokesperson from Deeside Rugby said: “Since joining Deeside in 2020, Alick has been a real asset to the region as a match official. He will regularly take to the middle for youth fixtures, which for us is so important. Without a referee we cannot give our players quality game experiences, and we are grateful to Alick for all he does.”

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