Scotland’s northernmost rugby club are employing a development officer for the first time – to capitalise on the mushrooming interest in the game.
Shetland Rugby Club have recruited one of their own, 20-year-old prop forward Daniel Meadows, to take on the role and build on the pioneering recruitment he masterminded when he was the club’s modern apprentice. Today Scotland second-row forward Richie Gray visited Shetland to lend support to the work that Daniel is undertaking.
Pic: Richie with youngsters from Bells Brae and Sound primaries, in Lerwick this morning
Richie said: “It’s inspiring to see the work that’s going on here in the furthest flung corner of Scotland to give youngsters the chance that I had – to have fun and play the best team game in the world.
“I’ve been given a great welcome in Shetland and the enthusiasm that Daniel is nurturing here with help from many in the community will stand our sport and the rugby club in good stead.”
Daniel was originally from Edinburgh and moved to Shetland when he was nine. He saw an advert in the local paper for rugby and went along to the local Shetland club, from where he became hooked.
In an early game in the Brewin Dolphin Scottish Schools Cup, Daniel and his friends were up against one of Scotland’s top rugby schools, Dollar Academy and though the scoreline was very one-sided in the Clackmannanshire school’s favour, it did not dissuade Daniel from his love of the game.
“I went on to do a coaching course with Brian Bell, Scottish Rugby’s Regional Development Manager in the Highlands and Islands and then I began to think about a career in rugby,” Daniel explained.
“I spoke to Brian about doing the Modern Apprentice Community Coach post and then for two years I basically helped to deliver rugby sessions in both primary and secondary schools around Shetland.”
Interest in the sport grew and from around ten youngsters at the club before he began the Modern Apprentice post, numbers swelled to more than 50.
Bryan Leask, Shetland RFC secretary, takes up the story. “While Daniel was employed as an apprentice through Scottish Rugby we saw a marked increase in the numbers of children participating in rugby and the general level of interest and exposure in Shetland increased significantly.
“We felt that we could not allow this increased interest to decline and it was decided to look at employing a full time Development Officer to work with Shetland Islands Council’s Active Schools team to provide rugby directly into primary and secondary schools throughout Shetland and continue the development of rugby at grassroots level.”
Daniel applied for the job and had to beat off stern competition to secure the post, which he started last month.
Brian Bell said: “I’m delighted that the foresight and determination of Shetland Rugby Club, along with the tremendous support from the Shetland Leader 2008-2013 programme and the Shetland Islands Council, has resulted in Daniel’s appointment.
“Along with the increased opportunities for youngsters to play rugby in schools and with the rugby club, the standard of players will also rise. I look forward to Shetland Rugby developing over the next few years.”
Bryan Leask added: “The development officer post has been part-financed by the Scottish Government, the European Union under the Shetland LEADER 2008-2013 Programme, Scottish Rugby and SportScotland as well several private sponsors including E&H Building Contractors.”
Daniel already has a packed schedule of events around Shetland including healthy eating and physical activity projects in six primary schools, a TAG rugby festival in May, youth coaching courses and Rugby Ready courses and will be based within the Council’s Sport and Leisure Service at Hayfield House.
His younger brothers, back-row forward Thomas, 18 and 11-year-old Jack are also smitten by the rugby bug and look forward to encouraging more of their friends to take up the game – with big brother’s guidance.
Notes to editors: Daniel is the fourth club development officer in the Highlands & Islands, others being Bruce Ruthven at Orkney RFC, Neil Livett at Caithness RFC and Sinclair Patience at Highland RFC. There are currently approximately 80 Club Development Officers, 17 part-time, throughout Scotland.
The most recent audit of player numbers in Scotland totalled 43,400 adult and youth players, an increase of almost 20,000 registered players in the past six years.