It used to be that Scottish rugby was forever associated with private schools or Borders termagants, but the example of clubs such as Hillfoots shows that there are plenty of energetic places with far-sighted aims and multi-faceted ambitions. Some organisations in the Scottish game lack either the resources or school administration, but the people who are running a fantastic show at Hillfoots in the central belt have an almost absurd mushrooming in numbers.
A couple of years ago, there were 12, 13, whisper it gently, 14 youngsters who were addicted to the oval ball game, but there has been an incredible transformation in the status quo, to the extent that Hillfoots now has more than 250 kids – and rising – who are apparently being spurred on to new standards at the grassroots.
It was once the case that these entities survived or perished on small numbers, but the fashion in which Hillfoots have transformed their fortunes testifies to the influence of a top-to-bottom approach, which has significantly increased the number of children who are now growing used to life with an oval ball for company.
Hillfoots have any amount of achievements which are worth applauding – and their livewire president, Peter Norman, has been an active member of the club since he was a teenager all of 40 years ago – but the main reason why they have just won the SRU Club of the Month award is that they are moving forward on an ever-growing spiral.
Three years ago, they were a small-town ensemble; but now, with the effort and enterprise shown by their panjandrums, they have created such teams as the Clacks Colts, who have made a huge impact at under-18 level, and the rapid rise in numbers from under 50 to over 250 illustrates the fashion in which Hillfoots have risen above the usual under-cooked number of their generation.
They know that they have done well and punched considerably above their weight. Their local councillors acknowledge as much. According to the club’s 17 year-old starlet, Aidan Fraser, there is a huge sense of progression within the ranks of their club.
“The results and performances throughout October have been the talk of everybody at the club, particularly as we have a new under-18 team [Clacks Colts], who have only started competing this summer, but they are now at the top of their table,” said Fraser, whose innate joie de vivre explains why the Hillfoots fraternity are pushing onwards to a bright new dawn.
This, after all, is an organisation which has produced such stalwart figures as John Manson and Danny Herrington; in short, those who champion the club do so in the knowledge they are not simply indulging in small dividends, but, in line with the philosophy espoused by Norman, are advancing their case for an upward opportunity.
It may be that Scotland is betwixt and between a revolution in rugby at the moment. Some clubs will thrive and others will wither on the vine. Hillfoots are definitely in line to join the former.