Borders clubs draw up protocol to stop poaching of players

BORDERS rugby clubs have agreed a new protocol over player transfers after increasing annoyance particularly around moves by Melrose to snap up the best young talent from across the region.

The recent Scottish Cup finalists have lost key Australian trio James Lew, Jordan Macey and Bill Wallace back to their homeland this summer, and David Whiteford, the back they signed from Peebles, is also heading down under in the hope of widening his rugby experience.

With only two Borders clubs remaining in the top flight since Hawick's relegation, Melrose coaches Craig Chalmers and John Dalziel have been tapping other clubs in a bid both to strengthen their squad for a tilt at the Division 1 championship next season.

Gala are set to lose Fraser Thomson, Tim Miskelly and Dean Keddie to their neighbours, while Michael Tait and Grant Shiells are heading west from Kelso and Rory Hutton, the Hawick stand-off, is now believed to be considering joining up at the Greenyards if a proposed trial with Glasgow Warriors fails to land him a full-time contract.

Players moving between clubs is hardly new, as coaches seek to improve their squads for the new season, but it appears that Melrose coaches' lack of communication with clubs was at the heart of this week's turmoil.

Some coaches and officials have become angry at discovering players were leaving in the media, before having an opportunity to speak to them about the move. There was even talk among some clubs of withdrawing from Melrose Sevens in the belief that the Greenyards club were using their takings from the event to tempt players with payments.

However, after a positive Border League meeting, Mike Dalgetty, the Melrose director of rugby, insisted: "The idea of a protocol where clubs speak to each other first about players was agreed as a sensible way forward. The issue was not just concerning Melrose, but all clubs, and the meeting was very productive.

"I will look anyone in the eye and say quite clearly that there has been no money offered to or received by these young lads for coming to play for Melrose next season. Talented players will always move for one reason or another; they want to play for a Borders club in Division 1.

"Yes, we do help some players financially, particularly those who come from abroad because you're asking them to leave jobs behind when they come here. We do not earn the vast sums people seem to think from the sevens; it costs quite a bit to run to be honest. It does play a significant role in keeping this club, in a small Borders town, going, but most of our income, like most clubs I expect, goes into the development of the club.

"It helps with youth development – 30,000 goes on that alone – support costs, admin, petrol costs for players to come back from university; things like that. But we do not pay all our 1st XV players – our club could not support that approach."