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Aberdeen Grammar return for pre-season and look to restore feel-good factor

Nat Coe, who has stepped up from playing into a coaching role at Aberdeen Grammar
Nat Coe, who has stepped up from playing into a coaching role at Aberdeen Grammar

Restoring the feel-good factor around Aberdeen Grammar has taken priority for the club’s new co-lead coach Nat Coe.

Grammar returned to pre-season training last night ahead of their return to National One in 2022-23, with Coe and fellow coach Greig Ryan shaking things up to try and bring the good times back to Rubislaw.

The duo were appointed in the summer on the back of the club’s relegation from the Premiership, which came at the end of a tumultuous, injury-ravaged campaign.

It stemmed from a disrupted pre-season last year and getting the players back early, Coe hopes, can help build their resilience ahead of the new campaign.

While some of the coaching staff have remained – former head coach Ali O’Connor has stepped back into the coaching team and Iain Stanger remains in charge of the backs – Grammar are exploring new avenues.

Greig Ryan is co-head coach at Aberdeen Grammar with Nat Coe
Greig Ryan is co-lead coach at Aberdeen Grammar with Nat Coe.

They are utilising an external strength and conditioning coach, as well as having a representative from Aberdeen Combat Centre along to training sessions.

“If nothing changes, you make the same mistakes you did previously,” said Coe, who at 27 will be among the youngest coaches in Scotland.

“We knew something had to change and what better time to do it than pre-season. We’ve changed the structure of training and made it a bit more exciting and we’ve started now to get people engaged earlier on.

“We’re trying to create a buzz and then back it up at the start of the season by getting some wins on the board. The coaching team seem quite chuffed with things and the committee are working hard; it feels like a big change from last season.”

Grammar have three pre-season friendlies organised, with the first one coming on a Thursday night against Deeside on August 11.

It represents a significant step Coe wanted to take to help build bridges in the north-east rugby community.

New Aberdeen Grammar captain Jack Burnett, with lead coach Nat Coe and second team coach Craig McLeod
New Aberdeen Grammar captain Jack Burnett (right), with lead coach Nat Coe (left) and second team coach Craig McLeod

“We wanted to reach out to local clubs to break down some barriers that exist in rugby in the north-east,” added Coe. “We want a bit more unity.

“Playing it on a Thursday night adds something a bit different to it; the lighter nights should make a bit of evening of it and hopefully ourselves and Deeside get something out of it.”

Recruitment will play a key part in any success they may have and Coe and Ryan have been keen to branch out further.

They have been utilising their connections across Scottish rugby, as well as their network of former players, to circulate their availability for any prospective players.

“We’ve got some new faces who are local to Aberdeen but some who are coming up later in July for university,” said Coe. “We’ve increased our advertising and myself and Greig have been out to speak to people.

“We’ve got a good relationship with a lot of people in Scottish rugby and want to make sure people who are coming to Aberdeen for rugby are pointed in our direction.

“We want to recruit as many as we can – we want to recruit for the second 15 as well as the firsts. Anyone that wants to play rugby at any level is welcome and it’s a bit of a shift in mentality, as in the past we maybe were targeting players more for the first 15.”

Grammar start their National One season on the road to Kelso on September 3, with their home opener coming a week later against fellow north side Highland.

“It’s a good one to look forward to,” said Coe. “All we can do is be competitive, get to Christmas and then reassess where we are from there.”

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