Community Recognition Awards 2023 | East region winners announced
The 2023 Scottish Rugby Community Recognition Award winners from the East region have today been announced following their presentation on Friday 17 March.
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.
Each winner was invited to attend the Scotland men’s team run on Friday 17 March ahead of the Guinness Six Nations clash against Italy, to receive their award.
Scottish Rugby Regional Director for the East region, David Drummond said: “It has been another tremendously successful year for the East region and that is a credit to the countless volunteers throughout the region.
“We are constantly humbled by the incredible commitment those across our clubs and schools show not only for the sport, but for their local community too and that’s what the Community Recognition Awards are designed to celebrate.”
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: Peebles RFC
Following on from celebrating their centenary year in 2022, Peebles RFC have now been named the Community Club of the Season for the East region for their unwavering commitment to the local community.
Over the last three years, and last year in particular, the club has worked tirelessly to support the community in times of need with regular donations and support to the Peeblesshire Foodbank. As well as providing donations, members have also coordinated deliveries to those most in need.
In addition to this, the club has also actively supported Peebles Resilience Community group to help distribute items including food, prescriptions, and logs for fires to older residents throughout the winter months.
Most recently, the club has fundraised for the Radio Borders Cash for Kids Sports Challenge, contributing nearly £2,000 and winning ‘Most Creative Fundraiser’ with an unbroken chain of passes with a rugby ball from the clubs training pitches at Hay Lodge along the banks of the river Tweed to the 1XV pitch at the Gytes.
On the field, the club is expanding with more demand from the local community to play more rugby, and with that continues to create and maintain a strong sense of community and belonging where no one is left behind or is made to feel excluded in any way.
Volunteer of the Season in Youth rugby sponsored by inspiresport: Murray Fulton (Forrester RFC) and Susan McGhee-Simpson (Dalkeith RFC)
The panel had a difficult time selecting a sole winner for Volunteer of the Season in Youth rugby, and so, the award was jointly presented to Murray Fulton and Susan McGhee-Simpson.
Susan has been the Lead Coach for Dalkeith’s Little Ruggers, sessions for children aged two to pre-school, for the last four seasons. In that time, the section of the club has grown from 10 kids to 80, running over two sessions each Sunday.
Mindful of making the sessions accessible to all, Susan has helped maintain a financially sustainable model to run the programme to ensure that cost is not a barrier for those attending, particularly given the area in which they operate is considered a deprived area.
Speaking about Susan, Jamie Simpson said: “Susy is always so happy and welcoming on a Sunday morning. She gets to know the kids’ names, will remember the little things they’ve told her in previous weeks and just goes above and beyond to be helpful. Nothing is too much trouble, and I am sure everyone at the club will agree she is deserving of this award.”
Like Susan, Murray Fulton of Forrester RFC is also a coach and coordinator for mini’s rugby.
Murray has been described as someone who “works tirelessly” with coaching and organising off-field matters from making sure there is food available on match days, opening and closing the club for training and games.
The 38-year-old came through the youth set up at Forrester, and so he understands what grassroots rugby is all about, and is helping establish a pathway for young kids to access the sport through the club.
Craig Fraser, who is a member of the club nominated Murray for the award, saying: “Murray has a fantastic work ethic and drive to keep the rugby spirit alive at Forrester. He has a down to earth attitude and makes everybody feel that they are part of the club, making sure they are always involved.
“He never looks for praise and recognises everyone’s contribution to keep kids playing rugby, to keep our club building through the youth route. On behalf of the club, we can’t thank him enough.”
Volunteer of the Season in Schools rugby sponsored by inspiresport: David Changleng (Peebles High School)
Peebles High School P.E Teacher, David Changleng has picked up the Volunteer of the Season in Schools rugby award for his commitment to rugby provision at the school and wider community over the last 25 years.
The 52-year-old has enjoyed a varied career in rugby as a player and referee, before becoming a teacher.
Over the last two decades, David has been credited for the part he has played in the development of innumerable players who have gone on to achieve International honours, including Scotland U20 and Edinburgh Rugby player, Paddy Harrison, and others who have played for and are playing for clubs at all levels in Scotland and beyond.
Speaking about David, Jim King, secretary of Peebles RFC said: “David can’t do enough for his pupils and those in the wider community when it comes to rugby. He freely gives up his own time to coach across all year groups in the school, organise transport for away games, support the provision of kit and organise food.”
Volunteer of the Season in Adult rugby sponsored by Tennent’s Lager: Laura Smales (Berwick RFC)
Laura Smales has picked up the Volunteer of the Season in Adult rugby award for her unwavering contribution to the newly established women’s team at Berwick RFC.
The team captain and coach has been described as a “paramount figure” for her work in the last year to arrange training sessions, tournaments, and transport to games for the team.
Laura has lead the team from a humble group of players to a fully-fledged 15-a-side squad which has this season participated in Scottish Rugby’s Aspiring League. Whilst galvanising the senior side, Laura has also played a considerable role in the set-up and continued drive in girls’ rugby at the club.
Speaking to Scottish Rugby about Laura, team-mate Megan Carpenter said: “Without Laura the women’s team would not be where it is today. Not only does Laura coordinate the things we need to train and get to games, but as a person she is so welcoming and approachable.
“Laura is a mum and works full-time, so the fact she still makes the time to give so much to the team and our club is that much more impressive and deserving of recognition.”
Young Person’s Award sponsored by inspiresport: Scarlett Crossan Brown (Langholm RFC)
Scarlett Crossan Brown is this year’s recipient of the Young Person’s Award for the East region.
The Langholm Academy pupil picks up the award for her contribution her school and local rugby club, Langholm RFC, as a coach and young leader.
At just 16-years-old, Scarlett spends much of her time coaching the mini’s at the rugby club and helping develop inclusive rugby events at school.
Most recently, she has been supporting the club to establish a girls rugby team, which would allow girls in Langholm the chance to train more regularly in their hometown, as opposed to travelling to other areas to enjoy the sport.
Community Match Official of the Season: Steven Dyer (Borders Rugby Referee Society)
Steven Dyer of the Borders Rugby Referee Society received numerous submissions for the Community Match Official of the Season Award.
Fellow society members described Steven has someone who has “worked himself to the bone on and off the field” over the last 12 months.
Whilst working full time, Steven has been managing the match official allocations for the society as well as taking the time to assistant referee match and coach other up and coming officials.