hawick vice-president quits as player exodus accelerates

Coach Phil Leck says the door is open to new players at Mansfield Park
Coach Phil Leck says the door is open to new players at Mansfield Park

THE man who in ten days’ time was to be appointed as president of the town’s senior rugby club has resigned from his role at the club for “personal reasons”.

Michael Aitken, who served as vice-president, was set to take over the top job from Alister Pow at the Mansfield Park annual general meeting a week on Monday.

But, he stepped down from his role this week, and the club have now set about identifying another candidate for the role.

A club statement read: “Hawick Rugby Club vice-president Michael Aitken has resigned from the post due to personal reasons. Michael was due to take over the presidency from Alister Pow at the forthcoming AGM on Monday, July 9. The club are currently finalising a replacement to be approved at the meeting.

“The club would like to take this opportunity to thank Michael for all his hard work over the last two years and wish him well in the future.”

While a shake-up at boardroom level appears imminent, the Greens are likely to feature a number of new faces on the field next term.

Coach Phil Leck has admitted his disappointment at a “successful” squad being torn apart but insists he fully understands the decision of four of his star players to leave Mansfield Park.

Since his appointment during the latter part of 2011, Leck has seen a troubled squad grow in confidence and narrowly avoid relegation from Scottish rugby’s top tier. In the last fortnight, though, he has seen no fewer than four key players leave, with captain Bruce McNeil and Scotland under-19 internationalist Rory Sutherland transferring to Biggar and Michael Robertson and Graeme Hogg departing for Kelso.

“It’s disappointing because we worked hard to keep a successful squad together – then people start offering money and the squad is carved up,” said Leck. “If we hadn’t been so successful, people would not be looking at us or our players. It’s just unfortunate we don’t have the money to keep them.

“You can’t blame the players with families to feed – it’s a no-brainer. But, it just becomes a money thing. People in the town think it’s a hangable offence. It’s a lot of cash – it’s nappies for their babies and food for the week.”

Leck urged the Greens committee to put in place a sustainable business plan to generate money and compete for players on a level with the likes of Kelso and Biggar.

Leck said: “We need to realise that we need to create a business that is sustainable to invest in the players to get where we want to be. It’s always going to be frustrating when you’ve done 7-8 months with the players who, because he hasn’t got £50 for the weekend, then disappears. That’s life – I’m a realist. If two people leave, two more get another chance.”

The Lancastrian coach said that every local rugby talent would be given the opportunity to impress at Greens pre-season training.

He said: “My approach is player-centric. If we have 100 players in the town, then there is a pecking order of playing ability and you should be playing at the level you’re capable of.”