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Caithness RFC’s Anja Johnston takes on Royal Bank RugbyForce Young Ambassador role

By John Davidson

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Anja Johnston is part of the 2022 Young Ambassador programme.
Anja Johnston is part of the 2022 Young Ambassador programme.

Caithness RFC’s Anja Johnston has been appointed to an ambassadorial role as part of a drive to develop the next generation of grassroots rugby leaders.

Royal Bank RugbyForce named the 25-year-old as one of 15 winners of its 2022 Young Ambassador programme which has expanded for its second season. Fifteen newcomers aged 18-35 will join the Young Ambassador squad from amateur clubs across Scotland.

They will deliver projects that help clubs create stronger connections with their communities, build a legacy and make positive change in society.

Anja’s tasks will include organising open days and events with the aim of making Caithness a hub for community sports in the region.

Anja will also be looking to introduce girls-only rugby sessions in primary schools.

Each candidate will receive specialist training and close mentoring to develop the key skills needed for effective club management, including seminars and events led by Scotland international players, delivered in partnership with Scottish Rugby.

The programme will also be providing the Young Ambassadors with a £500 grant that will contribute towards delivering their project of choice. Winners were selected from all five Scottish regions based on how they would best spend the grant as well as the community work that they are doing.

Anja and her fellow Young Ambassador winners will have a chance to come together and discuss their experiences in the game, share knowledge and get to know each other ahead of RugbyForce Weekend in August – which sees clubs open their doors to the community, hosting fun days and attracting new members.

Anja Johnston in action for Caithness against Orkney. Picture: James Gunn / Scottish Rugby
Anja Johnston in action for Caithness against Orkney. Picture: James Gunn / Scottish Rugby

Delivered in partnership between Scottish Rugby and Royal Bank of Scotland, the Young Ambassador project is the latest extension to the RugbyForce programme which provides funding to Scotland’s grassroots clubs, recognising that many are facing unprecedented financial pressures. Since 2009, the RugbyForce programme has distributed more than half a million pounds, directly benefiting more than three-quarters of amateur rugby clubs in Scotland.

Anja said: “Being appointed a Royal Bank RugbyForce Young Ambassador will support me with the skills, training and platform I need to help provide better access to rugby for potential new players in an environment that makes everyone feel comfortable.

"Through the training sessions, I hope to help develop player skills but to also encourage the friendships that keep people involved with the game for the long term. This, I hope, will help girls become more engaged with rugby and encourage them to join our club.”

Judith Cruickshank, managing director at Royal Bank of Scotland, said: “After the success of the Young Ambassador programme in its inaugural year, it was always clear that we would bring it back for the new season. Our latest group of Young Ambassadors are delivering some vital work, strengthening the relationships between grassroots rugby clubs and their communities.

“Anja is a credit to her club. We are looking forward to supporting her ambition to widen access to the game in the region. Ensuring that our community club leaders are well equipped with the tools and skills to pass on through the generations is of the utmost importance when it comes to strengthening the sustainability of grassroots rugby in Scotland.”

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