Expansionist Blog: Rugby league history being made in Scotland

Strathmore Silverbacks will create history this weekend, when they entertain Edinburgh Eagles in a first for the game in Scotland.

It will be the first ever club Under 16s game of the code played north of the border, with the support of the Scotland Rugby League association, on Sunday.

Silverbacks coach, Murray Duguid said: “I really hope that this game will encourage more people to take part in the sport. Even start up their own club, we need to spread the word that Rugby League is alive in Scotland and it’s growing slowly, but it’s growing.

“I love rugby league, Scotland is still mainly Rugby Union, League is still lacking a bit, but what a difference a year has made already, not only at our club, but for the International side.

“More coaches, more development officers, more clubs are forming, which i hope will encourage the youth side to get involved. More International games.

“It’s all looking positive, and if even half the Union clubs in Scotland start to do Rugby League, it would have a massive impact on the sport.”

There are only four senior teams in the country, with Strathmore closely aligned to the rugby union club of the same name.

Their rugby league section comprises of a senior team wit 25 players and their youth section, which has 21 players across U16/U15/U14 who all play together in the Under 16s.

They have struggled to get games, due to no opposition in Scotland, and with clubs in England unable to play due to their own league and cup commitments, the Silverbacks have been left without anyone to play.

Murray has been coaching rugby league for the past two years, having previously coached union for 12.

It was through his son’s interest in the sport that he got involved in coaching, and he has since helped with a development plan to grow the sport at Strathmore.

He added: “The reason i started to coach league and get involved, was that there was no league youth club in Scotland, where my son could play.

“He loves rugby league, so we looked around and found out that there were Development days in Edinburgh, so he started to attend the Scotland Rugby League Development days with kids from all over Scotland were attending, and also from England and Wales.

“The sessions were once a month, mainly in Edinburgh, which is a fair distance to travel from where we live. Due to the fact that the majority of the players attending came from down south, they started to train at Newcastle.

“I felt that the kids wanted more, so I asked the Scotland Rugby League Development Officer (Carrie-ann Downs at the time) what would it take to start a club.

“She gave me pointers, and helped me to start up our local club. It did help that our club already had a Senior team, the Strathmore Silverbacks, but there was no coaches or scope for youths with in it.

“So with the help of Carrie-ann, I managed to get a plan developed, I gained a UKCC Level 2 in Rugby League, did a lot of PR, and we managed to get players coming to the club.

“We now have 15 regular players attending the sessions, every Thursday nights.

“Three of our players have successfully managed to be selected for the Scotland U16 team, which is fantastic.

“The Senior Silverbacks have been brilliant, they have encouraged us, helped with training, and they can see that having a youth side is beneficial for there development too.

“My only concern is that the players who already play the sport, they won’t get seen or heard about for potential Super League / NRL Players for the future.

“I would like to see a yearly talent scout meeting, where we can show clubs from around the UK / Worldwide what we have to offer up here in Scotland.

“I would love my son to go on and play League professionally, and that is his goal, he has already had two Scotland caps for the U16s and is selected to play in the fixture away to Ireland on the 24th August, here’s hoping when he moves up the grade to U19 he will get selected.”

Strathmore Silverbacks take on Edinburgh Eagles on Sunday July 7.