Celebrating local sporting versatility

The Team of the Year, Gala Harriers Ladies' Masters, with Gala RFC president Graham Low (picture by Alwyn Johnston)
The Team of the Year, Gala Harriers Ladies' Masters, with Gala RFC president Graham Low (picture by Alwyn Johnston)
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Recognition and reward was to the fore last Friday as sporting achievement of the highest calibre was celebrated at the ClubSport Ettrick and Lauderdale annual awards night

Gala RFC’s Netherdale clubrooms were packed to bursting with talented athletes from around the region and those who work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure Borders sporting success is taken to the highest of levels.

This year’s Sports Personality of the Year did just that in 2016 when, at the age of 32, his inclusion in the Scotland Sevens rugby team, which took its first ever World Series win at Twickenham in May, triggered a summer of unique achievement.

Melrose man Mark Robertson went on to be included in the first pool of players to represent Team GB at the Rio Olympics, became the first Melrose RFC Olympian, one of the first Olympic Sevens (silver) medallists and, as the wearer of the number one shirt, was the first in the GB team to be awarded their medal.

Robertson was unable to attend Friday night’s ceremony, as he is currently training with the Scotland squad in preparation for the 2016-17 Series, which kicks off in Dubai on December 4.

Dad Keith, a multiple cap winner in the XV aside game, accepted the trophy and, speaking to the Southern over the weekend, Robertson Jr said the support of his family and friends back in Melrose had been key throughout his rugby career.

“Mum and dad both came out to Rio as well as my agents, and friends, Rowan Shepherd and Jason White, and it meant a lot to me that they were all part of that experience,” he said.

The much-prized silver medal now has pride of place beside the salad bowl in the Robertson kitchen and is carried around in a sock when Mark takes it on one of his many visits to local schools and clubs where he hopes his achievements will be an inspiration to future generations of Borders sports stars.

“All I really wanted to do when I was younger was to play at Melrose Sevens,” he continued.

“Once I had done that my confidence grew and I wanted more and more. Winning at Twickenham was special. It was always a dream to play in a World Series final let alone win one and it was an experience I will never forget.”

In total, eight awards were presented on Friday night with a diverse range of activities being recognised.

Phenomenal success over the last few years, which includes four National Road Relay wins, saw Gala Harriers Ladies Masters squad run away with the Team of the Year title while Melrose RFC took the Club of the Year trophy after making a huge impact in their community as well as their outstanding achievements within their sport at all age levels.

Lauder trampolinist Ciara Donlevy was named Junior Sports Personality in the ceremony at Gala RFC, having shot on to the international stage at junior level before helping Team GB to a bronze medal at the Senior European Championships this year.

Another local youngster at the top of his game is Galashiels football coach Greg Bunyan, who netted the Junior Coach of the Year Award.

Now living in Kelso Greg is a key member of the Live Borders/Scottish FA coaching programme which delivers courses to children throughout the region.

Gala ASC coach Robyn Methven’s Gala ASC coach Robyn Methven has made a splash within the swimming fraternity.

Her work within her own club has seen memberships rise, while her role as assistant coach with the Borders Elite Swim Team has helped progress swimmers of all abilities through the pathways.

Alan Oliver topped off a smashing year on the international badminton circuit by being named Disability Sports Personality.

Following several successful outings in this year’s Four Nations Tournament, Alan has become the only Scot to be named among the nine selected for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic GB squad.

The Scottish Association of Local Sports Council’s (SALSC) Service to Local Sport award went to Betty Scott, whose contributions to Gala Cricket Club, Gala Waverley Bowling Club, Borders Disability Sport and the Ettrick & Lauderdale Sports Council over the last 50 years have made her a driving force behind the local sporting networks and beyond.

Wrapping up the evening, ClubSport Ettrick & Lauderdale chairman Ian Cooper said: “The whole of the Scottish Borders is home to just over 100,000 people.

“As one of four districts, the diversity of sporting activity being offered to people of all ages and abilities right on the Ettrick and Lauderdale doorstep is truly staggering, and a credit to all those involved.”