Greens ready for 'step into the unknown' as Caley campaign kicks off
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Competitive rugby returns to Millbank on Saturday for the first time in 18 months as Caithness launch their Caley Division One campaign versus Hillfoots.
The Greens' head coach Ewen Boyd says it will be very much a step into the unknown following the prolonged suspension enforced by the pandemic.
He admits he will have a few “butterflies in the stomach” at kick-off but is excited to see how his squad’s mix of old heads and new blood perform.
“Training has been going well and we’ve been consistently getting between 20 and 30 at our sessions,” Boyd said. “But it’s only recently that we’ve been allowed to have contact and we have a lot of work to do in a lot of areas.”
Two recent bounce games resulted in a 22-13 loss in Orkney and a comfortable 50-19 victory over Ross Sutherland in Invergordon.
Boyd, who took over the helm in October 2019, said it was great to get back playing again in Orkney.
“It was a really good hit-out and there was a crowd of over 200," he said. “It was also really good as it was the first time since lockdown that the guys were able to meet up as a group.”
The head coach believes all at the club are onside with the decision to take the step down from the long run in National League rugby.
The extra games and hundreds of additional miles on the road would, he said, have overstretched the resources of the club and players.
Personnel-wise, he is able to call on the bulk of the squad from the last campaign.
The major loss has been Marc Mackenzie, the 30-year-old lock, who was killed in a motorcycle crash in March.
Former skipper Marc Nicolson is sidelined with a torn biceps. While the influential back does not now require an operation, he will be lucky to see any action before the start of next year at the earliest.
The club received a big boost with scrum half Kris Hamilton’s decision to rethink his plans to hang up his boots.
There have also been three or four players who have moved into the area and a crop of promising youngsters who will be gradually introduced into senior rugby.
That transition will be eased by playing numbers sufficient to allow the club to field a second XV.
Among the new names to watch out for on Saturday are loose forward Jack Sibbald, second row Sinclair Bremner and scrum half/winger Ewan MacDonald.
Boyd said: “It’s a bit of a step into the unknown as we haven’t played for 18 months. I will have a few butterflies in my tummy beforehand but we’re as prepared as we can be and I’m looking forward to it.”
Tillicoultry-based Hillfoots, familiar foes over the years, have enjoyed a run of wins in friendlies against neighbouring clubs, including a 36-0 eclipse of Alloa.
Boyd said: “It’s difficult to know how much to read into these results but it is up to us go out and give it our all and get torn into them.”
The match has a 2pm kick-off.