So it’s decided. We know who will officially enter into Premiers A, B and C. For some this split is a chance for glory. For others the split represents a dirty dog fight for survival.
Last season the last games of Premier B were played out in front of large crowds and partisan supporters. People got behind the idea of the split and a magical play-off feeling was replicated in the final games of Premier B and at the bottom of Premier C. There was that sense of something to lose or something to gain and there were fewer games to chase your aims.
Last time round we saw Selkirk, West of Scotland and Watsonians from Prem One swap places with Aberdeen, Accies and Gala from Prem Two. We also saw Kirkcaldy and GHA drop into Premier Three.
Now things get a little bit more competitive as the number of promotion places shorten and the number of relegation places increase. Only two teams from Premier B can make it into next season’s Premiership where as last term there could have been four teams that got promoted. This means that at the very least two of this season’s Premier One sides will drop out of the top flight. As for those in Premier C, four of them will drop into the regional Championship leagues and have to face local games more regularly as well as a play-off for promotion should they top their regional group. Basically, should you be one of the four dropping out of Premier C it is a hell of hard climb to get back to National competition.
For the top eight teams now forming Premier A, Melrose, Gala, Dundee, Currie, Stirling, Ayr, Aberdeen and Boroughmuir, it is a collective sigh of relief. Several of them have the chance to qualify for the B&I Cup and achieve a Prem One title but all of them can relax: they are guaranteed a place in next season’s ten-team Premiership. Even if a side went on a seven game losing streak it does not matter because they’ve already reached the Promised Land.
In truth this probably makes the Premiers B and C more interesting. In Premier B two of Heriot’s, Hawks, Edinburgh Accies, Hawick, Stew Mel, Watsonians, Jed-Forest and Hamilton will make it into the Premiership and the rest move into the ten-team National League. There is big change coming, and it is suddenly more real. Still, at least all of these teams will have national competition of some form next year.
For the bottom four teams in Premier C they will drop into a regional set-up alongside all of the other teams in Prem Three and National One. Things get cut-throat. Expect competition to boil over for Selkirk, Kelso, Biggar, Falkirk, Hillhead/Jordanhill, Whitecraigs, West of Scotland and Peebles. Every game in this group will have an edge to it as only half can survive.
Some fans may enjoy this set-up. It certainly makes for exciting and unexpected fixtures. It also sees reward for the best performers or those that hung on, even when they couldn’t perform. Whatever happens, the results in the three Premier sections will make for interesting reading after the festive period.
In Other News:
Stirling County have lost their Head Coach Eddie Pollock as he goes off to be Scotland U-18s coach and the SRU’s Specialist Skills co-ordinator, but have filled that role with Backs Coach Graham Young.
They will, however, be looking for a new Director of Rugby, forwards coach and coach with regional affiliates Bridgehaugh RFC. Someone with a Level 3 coaching qualification would be best suited for the Stirling roles whilst all applicants are welcome with regards to the Bridgehaugh post. All applications should come in, in writing, before the 26th of November and contain a CV. They should be sent to:
Stirling County Rugby Football Club,
Meanwhile the role of Specific Skills Co-ordinator is a new position that the SRU have brought in to try and cover the coaching of position specific, isolated skills. This has been an area I have talked about for a long time and it is good to see the governing body have taken steps to focus on this… even if it is only with one man, right now. The job is a massive one and it will be interesting to see how Pollock copes with aligning himself with DOs, Academy coaches and Elite Development coaches as well as planning skill sessions for players throughout the country. There may be some drastic changes to our current youth management systems in the coming months…