School sports: Academy hockey pitch raises bar

From left: Robyn Belch, Emily Whyte, Olivia Yeneke, Alex Fletcher, Emma Webster and Rebecca Neilson of the Inter-district squad
From left: Robyn Belch, Emily Whyte, Olivia Yeneke, Alex Fletcher, Emma Webster and Rebecca Neilson of the Inter-district squad
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Rhona Simpson, the school’s Director of Sport, has described the new £300,000 Olympic-standard hockey pitch at the Glasgow Academy as “a fantastic new facility” and it will benefit both the pupils and the wider community.

The elite water-based, all-weather hockey pitch was officially opened last week by Simpson and Lord Smith of Kelvin, Chair of the 2014 Commonwealth Games organising company.

Simpson, who played for Team GB in two Olympics and for Scotland in three Commonwealth Games, hopes the new pitch will encourage more youngsters to take up hockey.

“Hockey is the main winter sport for girls at The Glasgow Academy and we send out 14 teams every Saturday,” she said. “Over 350 players will use the new facility every week. This season, we had six girls in the under-16 and under-18 West Inter-district squads and we are hoping some will go on to make it into the Scottish National squads.

“Goalkeeper Susan Al-Haddad made it into the Scottish Under-18 team last season and she is still only in fifth year.

Situated at Windyedge Sports Fields in Glasgow’s west end, the new pitch is said to be one of the most modern in the world and an exact replica of the pitches being used at next year’s Games which will take place at the new Glasgow National Hockey Centre at Glasgow Green.

Constructed in just 12 weeks by WH Malcolm, the pitch is designed in The Glasgow Academy’s colours with sprinklers which can be raised from beneath ground level to water the surface to provide livelier and quicker playing conditions, help improve technical skills and restrict injuries.

Lord Smith of Kelvin said: “This new Olympic-standard pitch is a terrific investment by The Glasgow Academy and one which provides a truly world-class playing surface for training and competition. This standard of facility helps both the Academy provide the very best for hockey players within its current roll and also supports Scotland and Great Britain’s ambitions to compete on a world stage in the future.”

Simpson added: “All the top games in world hockey are now played on water-based pitches so this fantastic new asset allows The Glasgow Academy and Scotland to provide an elite training and playing experience for many of the country’s top young players. Our pupils absolutely love it.

“It will be able to host a number of tournaments and it will also be for community use and available for hire.”

Looking ahead to next year’s Games, Simpson is impressed that Scotland’s women’s team was given the opportunity to train full-time this summer.

“There will be no excuses next year,” she said. “I believe they are going to go full-time again before the Games. It is great for hockey and, at present, it is a sport that is very strong in the west of Scotland.”

Rugby: Donaldson leads call for rethink over mis-matches

Two alarmingly heavy defeats at the weekend have reopened debate within a number of Scottish schools about fixture lists that have little to do with appropriate levels of competition and everything to do with tradition.

At Myreside, George Watson’s College ran up an 81-0 scoreline against an admittedly weaker-than-usual Hutchesons’ Grammar School first XV while Merchiston amassed 59 points without reply against George Heriot’s School.

“Hutchesons’ are usually very competitive but unfortunately this a weak year for them,” said Ally Donaldson, the director of rugby at Watson’s, who is advocating a fresh look at fixtures. “We should start with a clean slate each season and try to work out the top eight schools and then let them play each other twice in the first term. It won’t be the same eight each season.

“What’s essential is that the best play against the best. We learned more in our defeat to a very strong Palmerston North Boys High School side than in any of our other matches.

“It’s also essential that state school boys get the same chances. I would like to see, for example, a combined East Lothian schools side training and playing together on a week-to-week basis and being competitive in the Cup.”

Heriot’s coach, Ewan Harrison, said: “We certainly try and even up games to avoid mis-matches. Nobody gains anything from these one-sided games.” Harrison’s side have only a small recovery gap before they travel to face Dollar Academy in the Cup quarter-final tomorrow.

Dollar are buoyant after a 25-13 win over Glasgow High School on Saturday, with tries from full back Jack McNicol, winger Neil Ivatt, and stand-off Gregor Haldane.

On Thursday, Cup action sees Merchiston facing Strathallan in a mouth-watering quarter-final at Forgandenny. Both sides have posted strong results but of the two schools Merchiston, aside from last Saturday’s match, have been exposed to tougher competition. Strathallan, however, will be fielding two Scotland Under-18 caps in prop Cameron Fenton and No 8 Jamie Ritchie.

Stewart’s-Melville College, fav-

ourites to win the Shield, kept their unbeaten record in non-Cup matches with a 29-12 win over Robert Gordon’s College with tries from full back Jamie Batho, scrum-half Andrew Manson, lock Callum Hunter-Hill, stand-off Jack Pennell and outside centre Ali Greig.

In the west, Kelvinside Academy had a narrow 24-22 win over Marr College while in the Borders Plate, Hawick High defeated Earlston High 17-13 and Peebles High were 47-36 winners over Kelso High. Hawick now face Gala Academy, with the winners taking on Peebles in the final.

Golf: Merchiston Castle win U-18 event

Merchiston Castle’s Golf Academy pupils moved up a gear by winning the Under-18 team prize in the Independent Schools’ Golf Association Scottish Open at Kings Acre, which involved Independent schools from all over the UK.

At this stage in the season, Merchiston is ranked No 1 school in the UK for golf. The under-18 team comprised Murray Naysmith (68), Morgan White (70) and new Academy captain Max Brueck (71).

Merchiston Academy’s Director of Golf Alan Murdoch observed: “This is the best result to date for the Academy. To win a team scratch national event against the likes of Wellington and Loretto really speaks volumes for how hard the boys are working. I am so proud of them all.”

Murray recently joined the school as a golf scholarship student and his goal is to become a pro player. Merchiston’s elite golf programme, overseen by Murdoch, allows him to play and practise every day.

Max joined the school in 2010, while Morgan has been at Merchiston since 2009 and, two years later, made the bold decision to give up playing rugby to focus on golf.

Following Merchiston’s success, other schools are beginning to mimic the programme. St Leonard’s and Glenalmond College are set to launch golf academies.

Netball: New league in north

Gordonstoun Academy took part in the new Highland and Moray Netball League this year, which was mainly for adults. Now, a secondary schools’ league is to launch later this month.

It is for senior 1-3 pupils and the schools entered to date are Fortrose Academy, Dingwall Academy, Thurso High, Grantown Grammar, Millburn Academy, Inverness Royal Academy, Inverness High, Lochaber High, Gordonstoun and Golspie High. Any others interested?

Shinty: Kingussie claim title in style

Kingussie’s Under-14 team completed a great double by adding the Marine Harvest North Division 1 title to the Ian Nicholson Memorial Trophy.

Rachael Borthwick, the only girl in the squad, was joined by 14 of her Kingussie High schoolmates plus Sorley Fraser, from the Community School of Auchterarder.

The league title was claimed last week in a fitting climax with a comprehensive 5-0 away victory over Beauly, an impressive response to Kingussie’s only league defeat of the season, a 3 -2 loss to closest rivals Skye.

The loss in the penultimate match meant that Kingussie needed to beat Beauly to win the title. Kingussie’s scorers were Ben Mitchell, Ruaridh Anderson, Dylan Borthwick and Roddy Young (2).

Coaches Dallas Young and Iain Borthwick were delighted with the effort from a team captained by Calum Grant – a youngster who has already played for the Kingussie first team.