Dalziel Rugby Club stages its biggest ever youth festival

After a two-year absence due to Covid restrictions, hundreds of supporters enjoyed Dalziel Rugby Club’s 30th annual Festival of Youth Rugby on Saturday, April 23, featuring over 900 players from Primary 1 to under-18 level.

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These young Dalziel stars won under-15 tournament at festival

Among participants were Dalziel’s newest teams, from pre-school Dinky Dragons for three to five-year-olds and the club’s first ever girls' team, at U14 level.

The event was once again dedicated to the memory of the man who started it all in 1991, the late Alan Calder.

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Festival convener – and Alan Calder’s son – Dalziel player/head coach Graham Calder, said: “It was simply brilliant to be back after a two-year hiatus.

P1 and P2 youngsters having fun in the sun at festival

“We saw fantastic, hard, competitive rugby from all age groups – all played with a spirit of respect and friendship.

“Teamwork and community have been the very lifeblood of the event since 1991. I’d like to express my sincere thanks to all who helped both over the weekend and, indeed, over the past three decades.

"Special thanks also to all those who sponsored us – including our main sponsor DecorAll Ltd.”

There was a strong turnout across all age groups from local clubs including hosts Dalziel, Hamilton, Lanark, Strathaven and East Kilbride. Squads from further afield, including Melrose, Ardrossan and Carrick fielded strong teams whilst a touring club from Northern Ireland – NI Civil Service – returned to the Festival for the eighth successive year.

Graham Calder presents under-18 winners Biggar with Alan Calder Trophy

Graham added: “The festival continues to go from strength to strength as the incredible numbers and participation attests. The appearance of our Dinky Dragons and our first ever under-14 girls' team is fantastic and only bodes well for the future.

“None of this would be possible without so much commitment from so many people.”

Andrew Allison, Director of DecorAll Ltd, said: “We are particularly proud to be the main sponsor of the Dalziel Festival of Youth Rugby, which is the very embodiment of grass roots sport.

“Dalziel’s resolute commitment to excellence, community and inclusion very much chimes with our own values.”

DecorAll director Andrew Allison presenting medal to niece Mirren Calder

In the respective age groups, Biggar bagged a double bill, winning the U18 tournament, The Calder Trophy, as well as the keenly contested U16 group.

Dalziel came out on top of the U15 grouping, seeing off high-calibre opposition from East Kilbride and Melrose.

The U14 girls' competition was won by East Kilbride and Melrose took top place in U14 boys.

At U13, East Kilbride edged it whilst Dalziel Dazzlers were top of the class at P7. Melrose won the P6 grouping, Hamilton landing gold at P5. At P4, NI Civil Service Sharks were able to add a trophy to their luggage hold and the P1-P3s took part for the love of the game and all received medals.

The club were delighted to welcome Lynne MacDonald from Suicide Prevention NL (a North Lanarkshire Council initiative) to the event where she was presented with a replica shirt by way of thank you for arranging sponsorship of the new under-18 playing kit.

Suicide Awareness NL aims to raise awareness of, and remove the stigma often associated with mental health. They recently provided online video training to Dalziel youth coaches and there are plans for youth workshops now restrictions have lifted.

Dalziel RFC stalwart Alan Calder (1949 -2008) formed a strong vision which saw the first youth rugby festival held in 1991.

He wanted to introduce youngsters to the sport, allow them to enjoy the game and to include everyone, win or lose, irrespective of their ability.

Tragically, Alan passed away at the age of 58 on Monday, January 14, 2008. Since then, the festival – which now attracts teams from all over the UK - has been dedicated to his memory.

In Alan’s words, which he often repeated, "Young players of today are the backbone of tomorrow's club rugby.”

Over the years, Dalziel’s Festival has grown in size and popularity to the biggest and best of its kind in Scotland.

On the third Saturday of every April, hundreds of young players, from clubs across Scotland, flock to Dalziel’s grounds on the outskirts of Motherwell.

As well as sustaining the very lifeblood of Scottish rugby, the national event is a lasting tribute to Alan's commitment, leadership and organisational abilities.