Rugby is on the rise in Aberfeldy
‘Come let us spend the lightsome days, in the birks of Aberfeldy.’
As we continue to enjoy the brighter nights, words penned by Scots poet Robert Burns have never rung truer for Aberfeldy RFC.
The Highland Perthshire club established in 2015, has experienced exponential growth in participation of its senior contingent, leading the club to venture into exciting new territory, now delivering rugby to young people between the ages of five and 17.
This development is a stark contrast to the club’s 2018/19 season, a time when the club was facing opposition teams in Scottish Rugby’s Caledonia Midlands League (Division 4) with as few as 12 players.
Aberfeldy club Chairman Laurie Dempster discussed the club’s new-found momentum and plans for the future with us, saying:
“We got a lot of kudos from the rugby community for trekking up and down the country with as few players as we did. I was even on the team sheet twice to enable us to fulfil fixtures”, said Laurie.
“It was at that stage where we said, ‘right, let’s give this another whirl’ and we pushed everything we’re doing. Thankfully, it’s worked. In the final games we played before covid hit, for the first time ever we had more players than spots on the team. We were actually having to make selection decisions.”
Despite coronavirus restrictions disrupting game time, the club has successfully sustained its growth, and Laurie is confident days of a 12-man team sheet are long behind them.
“Since we’ve resumed training in the last few weeks, we’ve got up to 25 regular guys down, which for a club our size and within our catchment area is brilliant.
“Last summer, following the easing of restrictions from lockdown we also launched a women’s section. We’ve got about a dozen regular players learning the game, and I’m confident it will keep growing too.
“A lot of the players up here have got to drive three quarters of an hour each way just to get to training because of the geography, so it’s a huge commitment. But I think after the year we’ve had, people have been looking for social interaction, they want to get out and see people. And I think the other thing is, there is now a real sense of belonging within the club, mainly because we’ve created such a buzz.
“During lockdown we made shift in location from the show field in Kenmore to a brand-new pitch in a field over Wade Bridge in Aberfeldy. People can now see we’re successful and it’s created a huge amount of interest, and I think people want to be part of that excitement.”
Using money awarded by Scottish Rugby’s Kick Start grant, the club will be hosting their first Everyone’s Game event, an inaugural rugby match on the new pitch later this month, something the club are extremely excited about.
Another exciting development for the club in recent months has been the launch of their first youth rugby pathway, and subsequent employment of Aidan Kerr, Aberfeldy’s Development Officer.
“Aidan’s appointment is really exciting. He’s a young lad who’s experience in the game is matched by his passion. We’re really looking forward to the opportunities Aidan’s appointment will open up for young people to pick up a rugby ball.” Laurie Dempster, Club Chairman
New to the area, the former Cumnock RFC scrum half turned stand-off is certainly no stranger to the sport having first picked up a rugby ball at the age of six.
Graduating with a BA (Hons) in Sports Studies from Stirling University, Aidan also brings with him experience as a Sports Development Assistant with Active Schools in South Ayrshire and Lead Coach at Rugby Tots.
Aidan’s role has been funded for three years with the backing of grants and money fundraised directly by the club.
Having taken up the post at the end of April this year, Aidan is excited about the prospects of delivering rugby to young people in the heart of Highland Perthshire.
“I’ve been really taken by how ambitious and enthusiastic Laurie and the rest of the committee are. There is a real sense of community spirit here”, said Aidan.
“At the moment I’m working with eight schools, secondary and primary. Obviously with current covid restrictions we are limited with what we can do, but I’m confident things will grow quickly. For now, I’m focused on making connections with the young people, teachers and parents and we’ll go from there."
“Long-term the goal is for us to provide a supportive, safe and fun environment for boys and girls to get into the game. And we’d of course like to generate enough participation to enter teams into a Scottish Rugby youth league.” Aidan Kerr, Development Officer
Again, utilising money from the Kick Start grant, Aidan and the club will host rugby and sports camps over the summer, and will look to run two rugby festivals in May of next year.
Scottish Rugby’s Regional Director for the Caledonia Midlands region, Steve Turnbull said: “On behalf of Scottish Rugby, I’d like to congratulate Aberfeldy RFC for reaching so many new development milestones, with the latest being their new youth pathway.
“The club cares greatly about the sport and the community it serves, and as a result lots of young boys and girls are set to benefit in a number of ways. Their rugby and sports camps later this month will no doubt be a huge hit!
“I’m really looking forward to seeing Aberfeldy’s youth pathway in action when it’s safe to do so.”