Scottish Rugby announces Caledonia North region Community Recognition Award winners
The 2022 Scottish Rugby Community Recognition Award winners from the Caledonia North region have today been announced following their presentation this week.
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, Volunteer of the Season in Schools rugby, Volunteer of the Season in Adult rugby sponsored by Tennent’s, Young Person’s Award, Community Club of the Season sponsored by Tennent’s, and the Community Match Official of the Season.
Over the course of week (beginning Monday 30 March), Scottish Rugby Regional Managers from Caledonia North have been surprising each winner at their local club or home address to present them with a personalised trophy and prize.
Videos of the surprise award presentations were then shared on the region’s Facebook group for its members to enjoy and celebrate in together.
Scottish Rugby Caledonia North Regional Director, Rudi Urbach said: “The positive reaction to the resumption of rugby by our clubs in Caledonia North has been inspiring. The pandemic posed some very different challenges to our remote communities, and we remain humbled by their collective resilience, and outward expression of strong cultures and values.
“As participation in our game continues to increase across our unique region, we must thank the hard-working volunteers for their input, passion, and dedication in helping to grow the game.
“We're incredibly proud of all our winners, indeed all of our nominees. The commitment and passion that came through from the nomination submissions was inspirational. Our personal, door-step delivery to our award winners has been great fun, met by much appreciation and absolute humility.”
Scottish Rugby President, Ian Barr added: “As we approach the end of the domestic season, it is vitally important to 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, particularly following the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I am so pleased that we have been able recognise that impact and say thank you to everyone for their efforts in helping the game bounce back with this year’s Community Recognition Awards.”
Community Club of the Season sponsored by Tennent’s: Fraserburgh RFC
In 2014, Fraserburgh RFC stepped onto the rugby scene, starting out with a men’s team.
Fast forward to 2022, the club now boasts senior teams for both men and women, plus pathways for micro, mini and youth players.
From inclusive rugby opportunities to local gardening projects, Fraserburgh has been recognised for their outstanding contribution to the sport and local community over the course of the year with the Community Club of the Season award.
Over the last 12 months, Fraserburgh have begun delivering rugby sessions to Fraserburgh Academy, 11 primary schools, an additional needs school, and a nursery.
The club’s Community Coach now works with pupils at the Academy, delivering rugby as part of the P.E curriculum and with an after-school club. As a result, pupils from the schools are now transitioning into playing their rugby with the club, with the youth section tripling in size.
And it’s not just rugby the youngsters of Fraserburgh have been getting involved with. In partnership with the local community council, they have helped plant flowers in planters across the fishing town, bringing colour and wildlife into the community. The players even helped cover the costs for the some of the flowers through a sponsored walk earlier in the year.
Elsewhere in the club, Fraserburgh’s Women’s team made history this season, playing in the Tennent’s Caledonia North league for the first time. Playing in a competitive league has been the club’s dream since the team was set up in 2019.
Just as the Women’s team continues to grow, as does the Men’s, which has been especially exciting for the young club following on from the pandemic.
Young Person’s Award: Isla Jack, Turriff RFC & Fraser McKenzie, Banff RFC
Presented with two very strong nominations, the judging panel struggled to pick just one winner for the Young Person’s Award, so this year Isla Jack from Turriff RFC and Fraser McKenzie from Banff RFC share the accolade.
21-year-old Isla has been described as the “driving force” behind the growth of rugby at Turriff RFC.
This season, Isla began delivering monthly women’s ‘come and try’ sessions and now the club has a core group of players who train weekly, with numbers and interest steadily growing.
Isla has also spent her spare time this season volunteering with the men’s team, supporting them at training and with match day preparation.
A spokesperson from Turriff RFC said: “The growth of the women’s game and the development of the club as a whole this season simply wouldn’t have happened without Isla. Her love for rugby and for Turriff RFC runs skin deep, and we are grateful to have such a committed volunteer within our ranks.”
Just some nine miles away from Isla is dual-award winner, Fraser McKenzie.
At just 17-years-old, Fraser’s input as a volunteer for Banff’s mini and micro teams has been invaluable to the club’s ability to cater to greater numbers of players.
Whilst Fraser now plays his U18 rugby with Moray RFC, he is still very passionate about his hometown club of Banff, and giving back to the club where his own rugby journey started as a mini’s player.
Fraser attends training every Saturday to help the coaches, and he often takes a group on his own. He is always there to set up and tidy up and never leaves until everything is done.
In a testimonial about Fraser, a spokesperson for Banff said: “Fraser is very passionate about rugby and Banff RFC. He has a great relationship with the kids, and strives to do all he can do to help them to be the best they can be.
“Seeing how rugby has helped a once shy, quiet boy develop into a confident young man has been amazing, and it’s fantastic to watch Jack transfer the skills he has developed from rugby into his school life and as a Sports Ambassador for his school.”
Volunteer of the Season in Youth rugby: Stevie MacAleer , Lochaber RFC
Stevie MacAleer has dedicated nearly ten years to the role of youth coordinator at Lochaber RFC.
In this role, Stevie has been responsible for organising and coaching at weekly youth rugby sessions and tournaments. When he isn’t delivering rugby to the youngsters of Lochaber, Stevie is working hard in the background to organise catering, transport and additional coaching resources.
But the club’s most notable success of the season has been the creation of the club’s first competitive U18 and U16 boys’ teams in almost 20 years, which has been propelled into motion by Stevie’s hard work.
As a result, the teams have spent the season playing in Scottish Rugby league and cup competitions, allowing them to develop their skills in a competitive environment.
Playing in these competitions, however, often requires travel, but that isn’t a problem in Stevie’s eyes. On one occasion this season he drove the club’s mini-bus to take the U18 squad to a game in Galloway, and the very next day was back on the road to take the S1-S2 team up to Thurso.
In a testimonial about Stevie, a representative from the club said: “Stevie’s selfless devotion to ensure that all eventualities are covered and that our young people have every opportunity to play their rugby is inspirational. He is always willing to help with other people with tasks, and he has a great attitude, which means he has gained respect from players and fellow coaches alike.”
Volunteer of the Season in School rugby: Peter Hodgkinson, Inverness Royal Academy
Peter Hodgkinson has been recognised with the Volunteer of the Season in School rugby award for his work in helping restart and super-charge the delivery of rugby at Inverness Royal Academy.
In the last year, Academy teacher Peter (58) has single-handily grown the S1-S3 section of rugby within the school from nothing, and now Peter is regularly coaching over 30 players.
The school is now in a position, where they are looking to play fixtures against other schools, and this is all down to Peter’s hard work.
Many of the young players from the Academy have now transitioned into club rugby at Highland RFC, where Peter is also a youth coach, and has supported the youngsters to attend a weekend tour to Cheltenham to play.
A spokesperson from Inverness Royal Academy said: “Peter has sacrificed a lot of his time in developing the school’s team and encouraging the pupils to further progress their rugby.
“From writing and developing his sessions for the pupils, to delivering them, and finding the time to organise a trip to Cheltenham, Peter pours his heart into giving his pupils enjoyable rugby experiences.”
Volunteer of the Season in Adult rugby sponsored by Tennent’s: Jess Silcocks, Garioch RFC
Jess Silcocks from Garioch RFC has been named the Volunteer of the Season in Adult rugby for her work to support the growth of women’s rugby across the region.
This season, 31-year-old Jess became the captain of Garioch Women, leading the team to the top of the Tennent’s National 1 league, and they are now set for promotion into the Premiership next season.
Jess takes her role as captain very seriously and leads from the front. Her can-do attitude and enthusiasm for the sport has helped to nurture a warm, welcoming and enjoyable environment at Garioch.
Whilst juggling the responsibilities that come along with captaincy, Jess has been working tirelessly to grow women’s rugby in the north-east by creating a network with other clubs in the region to ensure fixtures get played.
Jess’ proactive approach to securing players gametime, which matches their level and ability, has helped countless young women across the Caledonia North region get more out of their rugby this season, as they have been empowered to develop and flourish.
In a testimonial about Jess a spokesperson from Garioch said: “Jess puts her heart and soul into Garioch RFC, and our Women’s team has thrived under her leadership. Jess never asks for anything in return, and she never seeks out recognition or reward, but she truly deserves it. Her only desire it to see players and the club succeed.”
Community Referee of the Season: George Whitecross, Moray RFC
George Whitecross has been a dedicated servant to rugby over the years with RAF Lossiemouth RFC and Moray RFC.
The 56-year-old has now turned his hand to supporting for his local clubs by taking to the middle of the pitch on countless occasions for men’s games and youth fixtures.
George is said to “always be available to help with any referee obligations” and is active in encouraging safe, fun and fair play. Whilst he always officiates with a smile on his face, he takes his role as a referee seriously and will talk to players and ensure they understand his decisions and outcomes.
In a testimonial about George, a spokesperson for Moray RFC said: “George has been really good at offering his services to our youth teams this season, and without him many of those fixtures simply couldn’t have gone ahead which makes us extra grateful to him for giving up his time.”