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Rugby: Aberdeen Grammar promise thorough review after season of struggle in the Premiership

Aberdeen Grammar director of rugby Gordon Thomson.
Aberdeen Grammar director of rugby Gordon Thomson.

Aberdeen Grammar director of rugby Gordon Thomson insists there will be a thorough review of their tumultuous season in the Premiership.

Grammar have struggled all season and been rooted to the foot of the division, winning only one game against Glasgow Hawks in November.

Relegation will be confirmed if they lose their next game away at Hawick on February 12, after a 64-27 loss against GHA on Saturday.

For the heavy defeat against Currie Chieftains in January, they had to call upon help from four other clubs to ensure they had enough players to fulfil the fixture.

Thomson said last week he felt the club needed at least a season out of the top-flight to allow them to rebuild their senior teams. There will be no stone left unturned to ensure they learn lessons from this year.

He said: “It’s been difficult for everyone. It’s not fun having to chase round the country during the week trying to find players, to replace the ones who can’t play or are injured or have Covid.

“I feel sorry for the coaches and all the folk that have been involved with the club this year. That’s why we will do a complete thorough review of our committee structure, facilities, players and the pattern of how the coaches work.

Aberdeen Grammar head coach Ali O'Connor
Aberdeen Grammar head coach Ali O’Connor

“There maybe is too much pressure applied to one or two individuals and we’re looking how we make that easier – for people who volunteer to work at the club not to be put under the pressure they have been this year.”

Head coach Ali O’Connor has had the unenviable task of trying to get a team out each week, despite the mounting absentee lists.

Thomson feels the front-end of the club is the one which requires the most work and is happy with the way their youth setup is functioning.

He added: “From the bottom up the pyramid, it’s very strong with huge numbers. The rebuild of the youth section, from the 13-to-18-year-olds, is going extremely well. We’re heavily engaged with Aberdeen University and that’s going well, too.

“What we don’t have at the moment is sufficient quality first-team players due to injury.

“I’m hoping by the start of next season those injuries will be resolved and we’ll actively be looking to recruit players from the surrounding area who are interested in playing at National One level.

“I’m happy we’re (heading) in the right direction. We’ll continue to support the community side of the game and that is now the priority of the club, as I don’t see a future for spending huge amounts of money on the playing side of the club.

Aberdeen Grammar in their mudbath against Marr last weekend
Aberdeen Grammar have struggled with player availability all season

“Ultimately that doesn’t lead anywhere. If you import players to play for you, that money is disappearing out of the grassroots side of the game to New Zealand, South Africa, Australia or wherever they’ve come from.

“It is difficult because you’d know you’ve got six, eight or 10 contracted players who have to turn up every Saturday.

“If you’re an amateur club, you’re relying on players volunteering on a Tuesday to say they’re available for Saturday, and that does make life difficult for coaches.”

Thomson also feels the central belt, in particular Edinburgh, benefits from a “conveyor belt” of players produced by the private schools around the city, something which Grammar cannot match.

He added: “That’s why we’re so keen to stay involved at the university. When the downturn in the oil industry headed south, we no longer get the incoming crop of rugby players that we used to see from North and South America, Australia and New Zealand who used to come here from work.

“It’s not one single problem – it’s a multitude of problems that have all arrived in a single year. It’s knocked the main pillars of our adult rugby side.”

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