“Valuing the Local Game”

by Jack Nixon

In the run up to Christmas there are a number of games which have caught my eye which lead me to think that the fixtures on Saturday December 11, far from being meaningless before we start preparing for the festivities, are in fact vital to the outcome of the various Caley leagues at the end of the season.

Indeed if you are looking for excitement, look no further than the top game in Caley Division 1 where not only do you have a table topping game at Millbank but a good old fashioned derby game involving those old rivals Caithness and Orkney.

At one point earlier in the season, I would have laid any spare cash on the islanders to land the spoils, only to have had second thoughts after they were comprehensively put to the sword by Ellon at the Meadows in late October. Even a narrow win against Blairgowrie last Saturday did nothing to convince me that the Pickaquoy outfit are racing certainties to be promoted to the national leagues.

Equally appealing in the same division at the other end of the region is the mouthwatering clash of Grangemouth Stags and Ellon who could yet both feature in the title race as the season unfolds, making the prospect of losing unacceptable in both camps.

The fact that Ellon have their old head coach Alex Duncan back in the bank of coaches at the Meadows, makes me think the Aberdeenshire side are back on title seeking business, add the expertise and experience of Stuart Corsar who is also involved and you have a club who knows how to win.

Remember, this is the same Alex Duncan who in company of Kevin Wyness took the club to six successive promotions, while giving Melrose the fright of their lives in the Scottish Cup.

I recently bumped into Alex, and was agreeably surprised by his more relaxed attitude to the sport but even then, he had a familiar glint in his eye when we talked of Ellon and their prospects. Backed by Derek Fraser, the club’s director of rugby, Ellon might just be on the move again.

But if trips to Thurso and Grangemouth are beyond your financial capabilities, why not get along to Woodside to take in the top of the table clash in Caley 2 North between Moray and Aberdeenshire which could well decide the outcome of this highly competitive league.

Both clubs are going great guns, scoring points for fun, but from what I can gather, dependent on their respective packs. I will find out for myself, as I am likely to stand down from my Premiership duties next weekend and have a closer look at the grass roots and the progress the two head coaches are making.

Charlie Catto, formerly of Garioch set out his stall at the start of the season for Shire when he announced his intent of taking them to the top Caley league. His progress to date suggests he is well on his way to this stated objective. But first the intrepid Charlie must first overcome the tactical awareness of his opposite number Cameron Hughes who is in fact still a youngster playing the game, and will be in the Elgin side’s lineup on Saturday. But lest I forget, this is not a two horse race, as 2nd Highland are lurking in third place, and will have home advantage when they meet Shire in the first game of the year in 2022.

Moray eased through 39 - 29 when they played Shire in September when the two met in what I am told was a game to savour, which is why I am like to be among the crowd at Woodside on Saturday. Why not join me?

If you wonder where all this is going, it is hopefully going to be weekly preview with “Big Rig Rugby” and maybe also followed up with brief reports, and certainly mentions of every club in the Caley leagues.

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