Caithness festive rugby fixture cancelled amid Covid concerns
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The renewed purge against the spread of Covid-19 has caused the traditional festive rugby fixture at Millbank to be scrapped.
The annual Boxing Day clash between Caithness men's 1st XV and Students/Exiles is held to remember local player Sinclair Cadzow, who fell to his death from a ferry on his way to watch Scotland play in a Five Nations match in Ireland.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the tragedy involving the 21-year-old Edinburgh University agriculture student from Murkle.
Confirming that the match has been called off for a second successive year, senior men's coach Ewen Boyd said the decision had been taken with a heavy heart.
He and women's coach Mike Flavell, with the backing of the club, opted to cancel on safety grounds.
"We were uneasy about what was going on just now," Boyd said about the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. "We have a duty of care towards the players, the club and the community.
"It wasn't so much the game as being able to control the socialising in the clubhouse afterwards when we'd have people from different parts of Scotland who know each other very well mixing together."
Boyd said a lot of work had already been put in to organising the showpiece event. He singled out Stuart Kirk, who was in charge of assembling the composite XV.
Kirk, from Castletown, is a student in Dundee and plays for the city's National League Division 1 team. The former Thurso High School pupil lists Caithness as his secondary side and has turned out for the Greens in a couple of their away fixtures this season.
The last memorial match resulted in a 22-19 win for Caithness on Boxing Day 2019.
The latest cancellation has come as a disappointment but no surprise to Eilidh Cadzow, for whom her son's tragedy is still very raw 25 years on.
Mrs Cadzow, who was again primed to hand over the memorial trophy, said: "It's a pity the game has had to be cancelled but safety comes first."
Speaking from her home in Tain, Mrs Cadzow recalled 1996 finishing on a bright note for the family when she and her late husband Donald travelled down to watch their younger son Alastair run out at Murrayfield to win a Scottish under-21 cap against Italy.
Then a regular in the back row with top-flight club Boroughmuir, Alastair – who, like Sinclair, captained Caithness schools – continued his playing career when he emigrated to his now-adopted New Zealand.
The 45-year-old is working as a project engineer in Palmerston North on North Island.
His sister Elaine (48), an accountant turned helicopter pilot, works for the Flying Doctor service in Perth, Western Australia.