Rugby needs integrated system

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I WRITE in response to Nick Bannerman’s letter (Hawick News, December 23) regarding the current state of Hawick rugby. Like him, I deplored the events at the recent Wanderers v PSA match, but I don’t think it should provoke a knee-jerk reaction as there may well be a background to it. Could, for example, the pre-match team talks have been over-the-top, even if inadvertently? Both committees have apologised profusely, but I think the attempt to blame the referee was ill-advised.

I would be afraid that Mr Bannerman’s solution of an ‘A’ and ‘B’ and under-18 squads would result in one successful team and one that got pasted on a weekly basis. The latter would suffer in terms of coaching and committee time and over time would wither and die. The example is already there in an attempt to create a Hawick 2nds team. It is right and proper that talented players have the opportunity and support to move upwards, but the game cannot be run for elite players only.

Historically, one of the main reasons why Hawick was so successful was they had four players competing for every position. The better players aspired to play for Hawick and were encouraged to do so by their clubs. The system was the envy of Scotland. At the same time the junior clubs were at no risk, they were safe in the Border Junior League. The position changed with the advent of National Leagues, which the junior clubs had to join or have no fixture list, and players now had split loyalties. The situation generated a series of meetings and consultation and the concept of Hawick 2nds was born. Their theory was the best junior and semi-junior players would be cherry-picked and brought under the umbrella of Hawick RFC. They would train at Mansfield and get the same degree of coaching and attention as the senior team. In its early years the system worked but in the fullness of time it slipped away and eventually failed.

The reasons appeared to be, firstly, there were too many players. I believe that the original idea was that the teams would be selected on a rotational basis, but there is always the temptation to pick the strongest team so too many players were left with little game time and became disenchanted. Secondly, the coaching concentrated on the senior team and along with that there was little commitment from the committee to the extent that the Hawick Trades committee looked after the 2nds on Saturdays. If this is what Mr Bannerman is suggesting for the semi-juniors, I would be afraid the same result would ensue.

One area where I think Mr Bannerman and I would agree is the lack of interest in the lower levels of the game by Hawick RFC. When Hawick were in their pomp the committee were totally autocratic. Their interest in junior and semi-junior rugby was solely selecting or watching players. They still do not seem to have moved with the times. To illustrate this I watched the Hawick Albion 1st and 2nd years play their Melrose counterparts. The Albion 1st year had their coach, assisted on match days on an adhoc basis by two parents who are both experienced rugby players. Melrose, on the other hand, had four coaches all in Melrose RFC tracksuits, who quartered the pitch and were in constant contact with the players. The only recognisable Hawick presence was the indefatigable Rocky Johnstone.

I believe the junior and semi-junior teams should keep their identity and independence, but there should be an overriding integrated system where Hawick RFC are involved and, importantly, are seen to be involved in all levels from the grass roots up.

BERT JOHNSTON

With regards to last week’s letter from a constituent, Mrs Mills from Weensland, I would like to correct some errors from my recollection of the meeting.

It lasted well over an hour and not the 20 minutes claimed. I have to confess that the conversation did get off the point several times but this was just concern for Mrs Mills as she had one of the worst black eyes that I had ever seen and looked like she had been in a fight with someone when she went to a neighbour’s door about various problems that she claimed her daughter was being subjected to.

She did mention that her daughter had trouble with neighbours in Weensland and I took notes of all this. I said it was difficult if there were no witnesses but I mentioned that they should be filling in the incident diary sheets.

I agreed that in some cases it was frustrating that it sometimes takes so long to get a problem resolved but the council and Registered Social Landlords have to work within the law.

After a lengthy discussion with Mrs Mills she told me that her daughter had moved out and was now living in the west end. She also said that she had an appointment with another councillor the same day.

COUNCILLOR DAVIE PATERSON