We have now suffered a year under lockdown but there do seem to be a few positive aspects appearing on the horizon. There will be no rugby matches to watch at an amateur level but the Cougars are now able to go back to training and started on Sunday 28th March, and under 18s may now train slightly more meaningfully. The Ladies were allowed to start training on Wednesday 31st March with the Senior men beginning on 1st April. All of the training is restricted in numbers and there is no contact. It’s a bit like shifting sand as there are changes to the protocol with regard to return to rugby taking place all the time. You never know, we might get Sevens at Peebles, Hawick and Gala in August. We have no intentions of playing our Sevens until May 2022 but the plan is to stage the John Laing Sevens for 2nd teams in August and we have a Friday night pencilled in for that event.
One thing which is certain is the fact that there will not be any remedial work required on the pitch this Summer. It is looking wonderful and green and with no bare patches. Angus Roberts has been given the job of keeping the pitch in good order over the summer and into the new season.
Until we get the all clear, it will be death by a thousand Zoom meetings but I am getting the knack and I now have superfast broadband installed. That’s what you can achieve as a result of all the holes in the road and 4 way traffic lights around Kelso for the past few months. Even better news is that I have a date for a haircut in the middle of April as well as having a date for my second COVID vaccination. By then schools will be back to the new normal and I have a feeling that the youngsters might be quite interested in getting back to sport. To that end, we have moved our Club Development Officer, Murray Hastie, onto flexi- furlough and he is getting the club and schools ready for the return.
We are still in the process of getting the clubrooms up to standard to fit in with new safety regulations and could just about open up for Community use. We have altered our operating plan for the running of the bar and have amended the license accordingly. We did have a virtual bar for the Wales and Ireland internationals where members were asked to help out the club by donating the cost of a pint of beer. The Wales game was more successful but over the 2 games members donated around £800 with no costs to the club and no dirty glasses. It was an idea we borrowed from Cartha Queens Park but I understand several clubs did the same.
The 6 Nations games have been disappointing for Scotland, but, as I write, there is still the possibility of us finishing in second place depending on our result against France in a delayed match due to the French players eating waffles and breaching their COVID regulations. All we need are 4 tries and a winning difference of more than 7 points. However, considering the problems we have had with injuries and a red card, we have been reasonably successful although how we came to close to the Irish as we did will remain a mystery. Several new players have been blooded which is always encouraging. It must be an easy life being a hooker in international rugby as they get to score the soft tries eg David Cherry, in his first start, has now scored more tries than Roger Baird in International rugby.
It looks like the British and Irish Lions tour will be going to South Africa after all after some speedy deliberations. Mass gatherings have probably not been approved yet and that is where the money is and where the profit for the tour will come from. We shall have to settle for the Lions v Japan at BT Murrayfield. After the England win, Scots would have been plentiful on the tour but the success of the Welsh and our performances against the Welsh and Irish may have reduced that number considerably.
One of our lockdown projects had been an initiative called Breathing Space which is to help members of all ages to come to terms with solving mental health issues. This is being run in coordination with the National Health Service. We are also looking at introducing Walking Rugby for the less active.
The Committee has not just been sitting around as there are several sub-groups working on various topics such as an updated Business Plan, improving facilities in the kitchen, keeping the Constitution up to speed and, of course, working towards the return to playing rugby.
The Clubrooms at Poynder were being used by a few community groups. We had a few Pilates classes on a Monday as well as a Slimmers’ class. We also had linked up with LiveBorders to provide the Downstairs Hall for gym sessions on 3 days of the week. Like everything else, they have been put on hold thus making our income a big fat £0. It is not known whether any of these things will be up and running again but we look forward to be able to offer the facilities to other community groups such as Kelso Accordion Club, University of the 3rd Age and Border Links.
We are also grateful to the sponsors who have stayed on board with us. We know times are hard but your support means a lot to us. Sponsors have responded by sponsoring players, taking pitch side advertising and getting their firm’s name on the playing or casual kit and there is a new venture with several local firms putting up a smaller advertising board on the side of the stand as you enter the clubrooms. We have got this figure up to 9 sponsors now.
You will have noticed that the draw has been made for the next World Cup in France in 2023. Because Scotland did not do too well in Japan we were not seeded in the top 8 so we have a difficult group containing Ireland and South Africa. It is now possible to organise tickets for these games but you have to go onto a World Rugby site: www.rugbyworldcup.com. We play South Africa on 10th September in Marseille; Asia Pacific winners on 24th September in Nice; Europe 2 qualifiers on 30th September in Lille and Ireland on 7th October in Paris
Some of the older members of the club have been visiting the Tait Hall and Surgery to get their COVID vaccine with an appointment made for the second jab in Springwood Hall. We just have to behave ourselves better and get the vaccine and then we might see the youngsters back to school and us back to watching and playing sport. And I still haven’t seen my grandchildren!
Stay safe and we hope to see you soon!