North-east rugby supporters will be denied their Boxing Day treat at Rubislaw this year after the annual game involving nearly all clubs in the area was reluctantly called off.
Jim Sugden, the organiser of the 90-year-old fixture between Aberdeen Exiles and an Aberdeen Select, said: “Up until this week we had seriously thought about this traditional game going ahead.
“But, given the recent outbreaks in and around the city, we felt it would not be prudent, especially as there would be players coming into Aberdeen from different Covid levels in Scotland and much further afield.”
Despite the setback, Sugden is determined to ensure the fixture goes ahead next year.
He said: “There is no chance it will be confined to the history books.
“To do that would be unthinkable, and a gross insult to Doug Cochrane and Tommy Robertson, who dreamed up the idea in a bar in the Savoy Grill in London in 1930.
“We also owe it to the many clubs who have supported the fixture through thick and thin over the years, including some pretty grim weather. Only once has it been postponed, apart from the war years.”
The decision to call the game off was greeted with dismay by clubs due to participate, although all accepted the inevitability of the arrangement.
Among them are Aberdeenshire, one of the most supportive clubs of the best-attended game of the season in recent years.
Former Aberdeenshire president Alisdair Farquharson said: “The decision to call off the game is perfectly understandable.
“I just hope we have a game next season, particularly as it brings clubs together for a once-in-a-season opportunity to cement relationships in the sport.
“It will leave a big hole in this season’s programme, already devastated by Covid 19.”
Former Ellon president Archie Park said: “The Exiles versus Select is part of the folklore of rugby in the area. Players were always keen to test themselves against players from a higher level, while meeting old friends and making new ones. It has been a showcase of the amateur game for years, and long may it continue to be so.”
Barny Henderson, who has played for Aberdeen Grammar, Aberdeenshire and Banff, three of the clubs who have provided players to fixture, said: “It has been a pleasure to play in this red letter day for the north-east game.
“It was always competitive, particularly so when you got the opportunity to play against guys who had represented Scotland, not least Chris Cusiter, Andrew Wilson and Stuart Grimes.
“We can only hope we see some action next Christmas at Rubislaw.”