Community Recognition Awards 2024: Caledonia North Winners Announced

Community Recognition Awards 2024: Caledonia North Winners Announced

The 2024 Scottish Rugby Community Recognition Award winners from the Caledonia North region have today been announced.

The Community Recognition Awards are 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.

Award 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, Young Person’s Award, Community Club of the Season, and the Community Referee of the Season.

Caledonia North Regional Director Rudi Urbach said:

“What a fantastic opportunity to recognise the hard work and outstanding achievements brought to life by the fabulous people who are the lifeblood of our game across Caledonia North. Our North Clubs and Communities #AsOne consistently demonstrate the values we hold so dear and speak positively about opportunities to thank people and celebrate the efforts of Club Leaders, Committee Members and Volunteers.

“This week we take the time to recognise and celebrate those dedicated and selfless volunteers who are truly what make rugby across our brilliant Region so Unique. The Caledonia North Team remain humbled and grateful for the contributions of every one of our volunteers. The influence they have in driving our cultures, values and behaviours is significant. We thank them for their ongoing efforts and the commitment of time to the Clubs and Communities they serve.”

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 again received hundreds of applications to the Community Recognition Awards this year, and although it was a tough job for the Regional Panels to narrow it down to the winners, it shows how many people in Scottish rugby are noticed and appreciated for all they do, and personally, I cannot thank them enough.”

The respective award winners are listed below:

Volunteer of the Season in Youth Rugby, sponsored by inspiresport- Anna Newsome (Garioch RFC)

Anna is the coach of the Under-18 Garioch Girls team but has overseen the creation of teams at Under-14 and Under-16 levels on top of that. The setup has been achieved through a commitment to every aspect, from developing a positive coaching structure, sorting fixtures, to even driving the mini-bus.

Anna has built solid inner relations as well as externally with other clubs. Additionally, she always puts the best interests of the players and the wider game first. Under Anna’s tenure, playing standards have improved admirably, culminating in the triumph of winning the girls under-18 National Shield at Hive Stadium at Murrayfield.

Anna supports with travelling the length of the country to fulfil fixtures, from Caithness to Dumfries. Despite having her own business to run day-to-day and living over 30 miles from the club, Anna is very professional in her work for the club, dealing with any issues in a controlled manner. Her work promoting and organising rugby activity has made her a trusted and valued member of Garioch RFC.

One parent commented:

“We have been involved with rugby for many years. Our daughter has been playing with the squad this season and we are totally blown away with Anna’s commitment to the squad. Not just with coaching but creating an environment that encourages respect and positive attitudes that have seen every young lady grow and develop not just in their game play but more importantly as becoming strong confident independent women. Her encouragement and nurturing cannot be a learnt skill. She oozes this ability and her commitment to each, and every player has been outstanding”.

Volunteer of the Season in Youth Rugby, sponsored by inspiresport- Chris Grange (Deeside RFC)

Joint-winner Chris has created a massively inclusive environment for male and female players alike at Deeside RFC. He has worked with players from Under-13 level all the way to senior level, allowing countless players to go on to play for the Deeside senior team and beyond.

Recently he has become an integral part of the continued existence of the girls’ team. Since the girls’ team was launched, Chris has led sessions and accompanied them to evolution series events and joint training sessions with other clubs. He has helped build participation numbers and players’ confidence within the game, preparing them for the potential opportunity to take part in Player Development Hubs. He also holds a key role in liaising with other youth coaches about who to nominate for the programme.

This season, Chris has taken up the role of Director of Rugby, yet continued to bring knowledge, passion, and expertise to training sessions. Alongside his existing commitments, he has continued supporting the growth of the male game and has opened new opportunities for fellow youth rugby coaches to develop. Without his tireless work Deeside RFC wouldn’t be what it is today.


Volunteer of the Season in Adult Rugby- Dave Firth (Turriff RFC)

Picking up this year’s Volunteer of the Season in Adult Rugby is Dave Firth.

Dubbed “Turriff RFC’s Number One Volunteer”, Dave has been central to the upkeep and maintenance at Turriff Rugby Club. Since realising playing rugby wasn’t for him, he has given up his free time to help with anything the club needs. This has taken a massive strain off others within the club and has enhanced many different aspects of the playing environment. One of the biggest jobs Dave took on was building up the clubhouse, where he put in hours of unpaid labour and bought multiple supplies without seeking compensation. This was greatly received by everyone associated within Turriff RFC and a gesture which hasn’t slipped under the radar. As well as his clubhouse project, Dave was also responsible for rebuilding the club’s storage space after it was burnt down.

On all matchdays, Dave supports in any which way he can. He gets the pitch lined and ready, while being a combined water boy and kitman for the men’s and women’s teams. This constitutes a multitude of work, also including driving kit to wherever each team is playing and making sure everything runs seamlessly. Dave’s work ethic and will for the club to succeed does not go unnoticed and everyone at Turriff RFC are grateful for his incredible and continued support.


Volunteer of the Season in Schools Rugby, sponsored by inspiresport- Mark Penny (Bucksburn Academy)

Mark is a rugby trailblazer at Bucksburn Academy and has been waving the flag ferociously within the school. Since he got involved in an after-school club which the local development officer was running, rugby has been rapidly evolving at Bucksburn. His energetic attitude to rugby rubs off on the students, and Mark’s approachability lends him to be the ideal character to lead the rugby offering at the school. He now runs the sessions alone and is always looking for new ways to fundraise for kit and equipment to make the pupils’ school rugby experience better.

Mark now manages the Bucksburn Academy rugby teams and is the school’s rugby champion. Rugby is now only going in one direction- that way is up and that’s down to Mark.

“For a teacher to seek out extra work out of hours is amazing, especially for rugby. If every school had a Mark Penny school rugby would be massive. His commitment and drive towards rugby is definitely rubbing off on the kids. From the school having no rugby to a team in almost every age is a massive achievement in such a short space of time”- Paul Harrow.


Young Person’s Award- Jordan Gray (Ellon RFC)

Jordan has become a pivotal figure within the club at Ellon RFC. He has taken on additional responsibilities within the club as his time has gone on and has become a trusted and extremely valuable member of the team.

First and foremost, Jordan is a player who represents Ellon’s First XV Men’s senior team. Alongside midweek training and weekend matches for the senior team, Jordan fulfils a refereeing position within the club’s junior setup. It has been noted that Jordan’s willingness to be available for any of Ellon’s youth fixtures has been an incredible asset for the club to have. He is always able to find time to officiate, and on the pitch, he has become a role model to anyone aspiring to take up a similar position. Jordan ensures that he communicates his decisions clearly and creates an engaging environment for a safe but enjoyable game. Jordan is fair towards both teams, while ensuring discipline is always present and at the forefront of each game he referees.

Jordan has put in a power of work to help at any junior festival that he can. He assists with setting up marquees the night before along with anything else that needs seen to. On the day, he lends his hand at his speciality of officiating, bringing the same positive and encouraging atmosphere as he does to league fixtures. He took up a Club Trustee position on the trustee board but has since relinquished that role. Jordan also represented himself well during his time as Ellon’s well-being champion.

Jordan is always one of the first to put his hand up to volunteer for fundraising and club events. He provides full support to everything the club endeavours to do to be inclusive and his heart is always in the right place to do right for the club.


Community Club of the Season- Orkney RFC

Orkney RFC have had a successful 12 months both on and off the pitch. Club memberships have continued to grow, as has the improvement of performances across all age groups. Orkney’s First XV currently hold second place in National League Division 3, having faced a battle to break into the top six last time around. Commitment to both games and training have been acknowledged, with players facing regular trips to Scotland’s central belt for fixtures.

This improvement has driven up interest in the club. Fans now line the pitch at home games and there have been over 1000 tune-ins to games streamed online, thanks to club volunteers. The club was recognised as ‘Team of the Year’ at Orkney’s Sport Awards, rewarding the energy and local impact the club has made. The social aspect and 2XV game has developed too, with internal league fixtures being a constant, as well as some external friendlies on the mainland. Plans to get Orkney 2XV into the league setup are gathering pace, with volunteers keen to recruit and retain players. Social events are also planned so international games can be watched at the club, including one 6am breakfast to watch the 2023 World Cup.

This year has seen continued development in the women and girl’s sections, with further recruitment on the agenda. This was emphasised by Orkney’s Cailynn Williamson and Anne Smith’s inclusion in the age-group Caledonia North Regional team. There are also veteran “Vikings” teams for both men and women, participating in local fixtures and events held on the mainland. Several ORFC Veteran women travelled to compete in the Wooden Spoon competition this year.

“The club’s ability to adapt and innovate is evident in its embrace of digital platforms. With fixtures streamed online by a dedicated volunteer, the club has not only facilitated broader access for fans but also attracted a considerable online audience, with over 1000 viewers tuning in for some fixtures.

“This technological outreach has undoubtedly enhanced the club’s visibility and connected the broader community to the ORFC’s achievements and events – and ultimately inspiring future generations.  Beyond the senior teams, ORFC’s commitment to developing rugby at all levels is evident in the strides made in the women and girl’s sections.

“ORFC’s achievements over the past year have not only elevated the club’s standing in the rugby community but have also had a positive impact on the broader Orkney community. Through success on the field, growth in membership, and commitment to inclusivity and development across all age groups, ORFC has become a leader in community engagement in Orkney”- Sean Corrigall- Orkney Rugby Development Officer.


Community Referee of the Season- Alasdair Cochrane (Aberdeen University Men RFC / Aberdeen District Rugby Referees)

Alasdair Cochrane has been awarded the Community Referee of the Season for Caledonia North for his efforts in supporting grassroots rugby in the city of Aberdeen. He gives up his Sunday mornings and afternoons to ensure youth players take part in positive games, while giving them a chance to both learn and develop from his on-pitch guidance. Feedback from parents, players, and coaches from U13-U16 level has been incredibly supportive, emphasising the positive playing environment that Alasdair is both providing and encouraging. All his work supporting grassroots is in addition to his work as part of the referee society.

Alasdair’s refereeing style has kept participation numbers in Aberdeen’s grassroots rugby setup high, as players are keen to return to play based on their positive in-game experiences. In turn, this is providing increased hope that the future of grassroots rugby in the area will remain bright, and participation numbers will continue to rise.

This award is testament to Alasdair’s work already and his ongoing support of the game at grassroots level in his region.

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