PICTURES: Scottish internationalist Panashe Muzambe delighted to see growth in Caithness women's rugby
Easier access to your trusted, local news. Subscribe to a digital package and support local news publishing.
A Scottish rugby internationalist has spoken of her delight that Caithness is sharing in the recent sharp upturn in the strength of the women's game.
Panashe Muzambe welcomes both the growth in numbers playing in the far north and the clutch of talented youngsters coming through the ranks.
The seven-times-capped prop was speaking at Millbank on Saturday at Caithness RFC's first club awards day.
Zimbabwe-born Muzambe is set to be among the first cadre of professional women players in the country.
Scottish Rugby has just invested an extra £2.5 million to develop the female game, which includes a commitment to a minimum of 30 contracted players following the World Cup in New Zealand later this year.
She said: "I'm very excited about it in terms of the opportunity it can offer me.
"But more importantly, the new women and girls strategy gives the chance for talented young girls up here and elsewhere in Scotland to make rugby their professional career."
Muzambe has noted the progress made by Caithness Krakens, who reached the semi-finals of the National Bowl in their debut season.
In addition, three Caithness juniors have been chosen for Scottish Futures and Hannah Dunnett was selected for Scottish under-18s.
Muzambe, who had a spell playing for Garioch last year, has just completed her probationary teaching year in Aberdeen. She is to relocate to Edinburgh as she prepares for the World Cup and the start of life as a full-time rugby player.
"I'm very impressed about the set-up here," the 26-year-old said. "It's something I've noticed about a lot of teams in the north – they are very inclusive.
"There's not a divide between the men's and the women's teams. You can sense the community feel of the club – there's a real togetherness."
Her sentiment was echoed at the awards day by Scottish Rugby's corporate affairs manager Graham Law.
Mr Law said: "For me, this is what a rugby club should be all about. Too often, when I visit clubs in the central belt, they are very much focused on the male first-team XV.
"It's great to see every section of the club here represented to celebrate success."
Mr Law took with him the Calcutta Cup, which was in demand throughout the day for selfies.
During the presentation of the awards, vice-president Russell Mill was singled out for his part in driving the recent growth in membership and activity in the club.
Neither the men's nor the women's player of the year, Grant Anderson and Helen Richard, were able to attend.
The event ended on a sombre note with tribute paid to first-team player Marc Mackenzie, the 30-year-old who was killed in a motorcycle crash in March last year.
Girls – Under-12 – Best newcomer: Erin Sutherland.
Under-14 – Most improved: Jessica Dunnett. Player of the year: Iona Gill.
Under-16 – Most improved: Sarah Dunnett. Players' player of the year: Tamzin Rosie. Endeavour: Lynsey Dunnett. Player of the year: Abbie Dunnett.
Under-18 – Most improved and endeavour: Rhianna Mackay.
Players' player of the year: Rhianna Mackay and Morven Thomson (shared). Player of the year: Hannah Dunnett.
Girls (across all age grades) – Best newcomer: Sarah Manson. Top points scorer: Tamzin Rosie.
Boys – Under-14 – Most improved: Robbie Todd. Player of the year: Logan McNeil.
Under-16 – Most improved: Connor Allan. Player of the year: Benjamin Rogers.
Under-18 – Most improved: Sean Johnson. Player of the year: Danny McLeod.
Women – Most improved: Nicola Cameron. Young player of the year: Shannon Pasotti. Players' player of the year: Hazel Stewart.
Female player supporters' player of the year: Donna Edwards. Player of the year: Helen Richard.
Men – 1sts – Most improved: Duncan MacMillan. Young player of the year: Max Kennedy. Players' player of the year and Doddy Mug for most appearances: Charlie Quinn.
Male player supporters' player of the year: Gordie Macleod. Player of the year: Grant Anderson.
2nds – Most improved: Jamie Mowat. Young player of the year: Danny McLeod. Player of the year: Max Kennedy.