Two groups of Angus youngsters enjoyed a visit to the home of Scottish Rugby today before their summer holidays.
The recent under-14/15 recruits to the game enjoyed a behind the scenes tour of the national stadium, to meet the Edinburgh Rugby player during preseason, and an opportunity to put their new-found rugby skills to use.
In a hard fought game Brechin edged out Montrose 24-10 on Murrayfield’s’ state of the art 3G pitch.
The game was a consequence of the Scottish Government’s CashBack for Communities scheme which takes the ill-gotten gains of convicted criminals and invests them into the local communities.
The G4S Street Rugby programme is a part of CashBack for Communities and is a portable version of non-contact rugby which is used as an engaging activity in areas of deprivation where opportunities may not be as readily available and young people are often disinterested or unable to take part in sporting activities.
Today’s game was an extension of that initiative as part of the Street Rugby Referral scheme. This year saw the Angus Street Rugby programme taken from the streets and straight into Brechin High School & Montrose Schools with the Montrose group being supported by the local rugby club. The idea behind the move was to target hard-to-reach pupils who had disengaged from the education system and provide them with the opportunity to participate in sport.
The programme was led by Angus Council Rugby Development Officer Stewart Ross and Gus Robb LMART Development Worker Brechin/Montrose Cluster lasting for ten weeks. Pupils were referred to the programme by guidance teachers who felt certain pupils who were on limited timetables may benefit from a different way of learning outwith the school environment.
Stewart said: “In putting a rugby programme into schools we got to work directly with the kids on contact rugby skills but also on basic values which work well in rugby like respect but also work well in the classroom and outside of schools as well.”
During rest periods Gus was able to talk to the players as a group or individually on topics ranging from health & wellbeing, behaviour issues both in and out of school and aims for life after school.
Alastair Chalmers the partnership project manager at Scottish rugby worked with the programme setting up Positive Coaching Scotland Values Workshops, using rugby video clips, group discussions, and workbooks to work on aspects such as Respect, Discipline, Leadership, and Teamwork. These workshops were run along Gus's own workshops on the value of nutrition for example the effects of smoking and the health benefits of water over coke.
Gus said: “Rugby has given them some focus and somewhere to go and it’s a way of diversifying the boys’ interests away from potentially offending in the community and getting on better in school.
“A lot of them now want to go for their school colours in rugby and play for the school.”
Similar Street Rugby Referral Programmes are being run in Dundee and Stewart hopes to expand the programme into other schools in Angus such as Forfar Academy with a long term vision of inter-area festivals under the street rugby programme.
Captain of Montrose Fraser Muir said pre-game: "The training has been really good. We have been working really hard on teamwork".
Lewis Hill captain of Brechin said: “Rugby lets us learn about important things like respect and teamwork
“We all play together really well because we all go to school together, we know each other and get on really well now”.