Caithness Rugby Football Club, known as the ‘Greens’, was founded in September 1962, though the sport was played in the County for a number of years previously by a team operating under the Dounreay RFC banner. From humble beginnings, Caithness quickly became established as a leading light in the north.
The Club could have begun their National League career in 1973/74 - the season after the SRU league system was inaugurated. As champions of the Highland District League, they qualified to join National League 7. After a lot of heart-searching, the Club opted not to take up the invitation due to the heavy travelling commitment which would have been involved. It was a decision the Club came to regret as it was to be another 18 years before the opportunity to step-up was to come round again.
After a regular run of league and cup successes in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the Club finally acquired National League status after winning the North District League title in 1991/92.
The Club was promoted to National League Division 3 for the 2004/2005 season and enjoyed great success in the Scottish Cup, progressing all the way to the 4th round, being beaten by Premiership Division One side Ayr.
Season 2005/2006 saw the Club repeat its success of the previous year and gain promotion again, this time to National Division 2 - the Club’s third promotion in 4 years, ranking it in the top 50 clubs in Scotland.
The SRU league structure changed significantly prior to the 2011/12 season and became regionalised. The Club was placed into the new Caledonian Regional League Division 1, where it has remained ever since, finishing 4th last season. To put this in perspective, the Caledonian Regional League represents the fifth tier of Scottish club rugby behind the Premiership and three National Leagues which contain a total of 46 clubs.
A highlight of the current era was our 2012/13 season 50th anniversary celebrations. These centred around the weekend of August 17-19 when we hosted a special lunch and a friendly game versus a Scottish Legends side. The latter having been organised by former Club player and Scottish full back Rowen Shepherd and the Xodus Steelers under the charge of former Edinburgh and Scotland coach Frank Hadden. We finished runners up in the league that season - our best ever result to date.
The 2013/14 season saw us on another high with the opening of our new clubhouse funded, in the main, by Sport Scotland (the sports arm of the Big Lottery). This replaced a decrepit timber building which provided just two changing rooms for which ‘basic’ would be a very generous description. The new clubhouse not only boasts four modern, spacious changing rooms but also a well-used club room and kitchen/bar, which is available for private hire.
In the same season, the 1st XV won the RBS Caledonian Shield and went on to finish runner up in the RBS National Shield. The only dampener being the final should have been played at Murrayfield but, due to pitch problems (defective turf), had to be played in Cumbernauld. But, for all this, it was a great occasion attended by some 500 supporters. To top off the season, then captain Stevie Campbell, was chosen as the Caledonian Region’s Player of the Year.
Last season (2015/16) saw two long standing Club records broken. The first by Andy Morris who started his playing career in 1995 and had two spells as 1st XV captain in 2002/04 and 2009/11. He has now amassed 339 appearances to which he will undoubtedly add during the coming season. The second by a much younger Marc Anderson who started his playing career just a few years ago. Over the course of the season he scored a total 273 points with 17 tries, 16 penalty goals and 70 conversions. This smashed the previous record of 189 points set by Phil Matheson in the 1988/9 season and represented nearly half of all the points scored by the Greens during the season.
This success and the development of the Club as a whole was, in no small measure, due to the expertise and commitment of former coach Colin Sangster. Colin also coached the Scotland U18 team and is now head coach to Dundee HSFP in National League Division 1.
For the coming season we are equally fortunate to have the services of another professional coach in the substantial form of Tom McGee! Tom has had a diverse rugby upbringing, playing both league and union. As a player, his clubs have included Boroughmuir, Edinburgh and Leeds Carnegie. He also represented Scotland in two ‘A’ team tours. Tom has been coaching for the past 14 years latterly for Leeds Carnegie and the Leeds Metropolitan University teams.
Pre-season training is already showing a significant improvement in terms of player ability and commitment and confidence levels are at an all-time high. Training is undertaken on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Millbank and on Saturday morning at Bignold Park. Tom’s target for the 1st XV this season is to finish at least runner up. For 2017/18 nothing less than promotion to National League Division 3 will be good enough.
Playing for the Greens requires a huge commitment. Away games involve leaving Caithness after work on a Friday night, an overnight stay en route, playing the game on the Saturday and afterwards the long drive North, usually arriving home after midnight. This requires determination and stamina from players and support from families, wives and girlfriends. Then, there’s the equally committed band of volunteers, without whom the Club could not function.
Two years ago we saw Orkney promoted to National League Division 3 and last year Highland performed a similar feat. Orkney and Highland were our nearest opponents and these games were always fiercely competitive. For the upcoming season our nearest competitors will be Deeside and Gordonians whilst Dunfermline will be the furthest. With 9 away games, that’s a lot of travelling. Including accommodation, costs for running just the 1st XV amount to approximately £20,000. Most of this funding comes from our numerous sponsors, to which we are greatly indebted.
Finally, although this potted history has focused on the 1st XV it should be noted that the Club has great depth with a 2nd XV and U18, U16, U15, S1/2 and Mini/Micro teams. The future is full of promise.
Better Person, Better Player, Better Team, Better Club