School sport: Fair City united in bid to get rugby players on side

A UNIQUE link-up between two Perth schools is going from strength to strength as they continue to work together to get more pupils actively involved in sporting activities.

Sports Comprehensive was started by David Taylor from St John's Academy and Perth Grammar's Mike Edwards and it has seen great success with the school's working together to give pupils more choice and better use of facilities at both schools.

Although the staff work in partnership with a common goal the schools were still independent of each other when it came to competitive sport. Each school competes in basketball, football, athletics and hockey as either Perth Grammar or St John's, but until recently there was yet to be a rugby team established at either school.

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That is when Perthshire Community Rugby Trust, the rugby development arm of Perthshire Rugby Club, became involved and rugby development officer Derek O'Riordan saw an opportunity to do more than merely form a new school rugby team comprising of players from both schools.

O'Riordan, who plays his rugby for Premier One side Boroughmuir, began work in partnership with Edwards, Taylor, Greig Marshall (St John's) and Ross Munro (Perth Grammar), to put together a curricular and extracurricular programme to generate interest in rugby in what are both well established football schools.

Marshall and Munro were recruited as rugby champions to co-ordinate the programme within their schools and once everything was in place player recruitment began.

The uptake was very encouraging and after two weeks there was a squad of 29 players for the S1/2 team in the Perth and Kinross Interschool League. Not only did this team of beginners compete but they defeated teams from established rugby schools and gave the unbeaten Blairgowrie a good run for their money.

O'Riordan said: "The performances on the park were dwarfed by the impact this team would have on the players and the school alike. Firstly, kids from different social and faith backgrounds were mixing and making friends where they previously wouldn't have had the opportunity to do so.

"Secondly, the buzz of the team and their successes were infectious in their schools and Kirsty Munro of Perth Grammar decided to tap into this."

She put together a cross-curricular and cross-campus project to design a rugby jersey for the Sports Comprehensive and it involved Mike Alexander, principle art and design teacher at Perth Grammar, and his pupils as well as pupils from St John's.

After a month of hard work a winning design was agreed upon and it was Sam Nixon of Perth Grammar who took the honour of creating the Sports Comprehensive's first-ever jersey.

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Munro said: "It has been great to see the links between the two schools growing on a sporting level.At first the pupils maybe found it hard to mix with pupils from the other school, but the cooperation has helped us to be able to offer more sports and has seen more youngsters than before getting active.

"It has also been pleasing to bring in other departments such as home economics to show how living a healthy lifestyle is key and the two schools are looking forward to Sports Comprehensive continuing to grow in the future."