THE much-anticipated Greenock Wanderers rugby festival weekend has finally arrived and there is plenty of action lined up for the discerning local rugby enthusiast to enjoy over the next few days.
The focal point is of course the sevens competition which takes place tomorrow from noon and, with the club securing sponsorship for the event from two Wanderers stalwarts, David ‘Ped’ Ramage and Steven Haldane, the tournament is now assured to be of the highest quality.
The lifelong Wanderers members have dedicated the event to the memory of Dr John LM Forster who sadly passed away last week after a short illness.
Dr Forster was an iconic figure at Fort Matilda and was a former player, honorary life member and distinguished past president of the club.
It is a marvellous gesture from two of Wanderers’ best known sons and the club management are delighted to accept such a fitting tribute in honour of such a popular and legendary club member.
The weekend’s action kicks off at 6.30pm tonight, with Wanderers’ top team this season, the ladies side, pictured, hosting a combined Royal High Corstorphine/Clydebank team in a challenge match.
Ladies skipper Caitlyn Haldane will lead her all-stars in what is their final match of the season and they will want to go out on a high after a fantastic year which saw the pioneering local team achieve all their objectives and secure a place in mainstream competition next season.
They are sure to draw a big crowd and receive the plaudits they so richly deserve for promoting the ladies game locally and for being excellent ambassadors for the area during their journeys across Scotland this term.
The ladies’ match is followed by an ‘Old Crocks’ fixture between Wanderers and Birkmyre and several stars of the past are scheduled to feature.
Graham ‘Rivet’ Bolster, David Murray, Graham Knox and Kevin Murray will all don the hoops once more and represent their club alongside several youth team coaches and guest players.
Birkmyre will be led by former Wanderer John Black, who has a long association with both clubs and is himself a former captain of Greenock.
An entertaining spectacle of some description is pretty much assured and the visitors have donated a trophy for the match in honour of Dr Forster and it will now be played for annually between the sides.
The main event of the weekend is, of course, the Dr John Forster Memorial Sevens and the 12 competing sides will be divided into four groups of three teams with the group winners and runners-up going on to the quarter-final knock-out stages.
Thereafter the winning quarter-finalists will compete for the Fort Matilda Trophy and the losers will contest the Octavia Shield.
The participating clubs are Glasgow Hawks, Carrick, Hamilton, Perthshire, Howe of Fife, Kirkcaldy, Cartha Queens Park, Falkirk, Hillhead/Jordanhill, Whitecraigs, Wanderers and most likely a Wanderers president’s team. The tournament has added kudos this season as it is part of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014 Legacy sevens circuit and having their tournament recognised in this way is a big boost for the Greenock club.
Wanderers are the defending champions having won the Fort Matilda Trophy for only the fifth time in their history last season and are tipped to do well again this year.
The locals are fortunate to be able to call upon dual registered player Brendan McGroarty who has agreed to co-ordinate the Wanderers sevens effort over the next few weeks and the Glasgow Hawks star will personally captain the Greenock seven tomorrow.
He remained tight-lipped about his selection but it is anticipated that he will utilise the speedsters from the Wanderers current squad enhanced by some invited guest players.
McGroarty led Wanderers to triumph last season and, with him back at the helm, the locals have an excellent chance of holding onto the trophy for another 12 months.
An interesting sub-plot would be if Wanderers were drawn against Glasgow Hawks, with McGroarty playing for his home town club against his current side. The finals are expected to be played around 5pm.
The stars of the future get their chance to shine on Sunday when somewhere in the region of 350 youngsters aged between five and 12 will converge on Fort Matilda for the youth rugby tournament which is scheduled to start at 12.30pm.
Whitecraigs, Ardrossan, Marr, Cartha Queens Park and Irvine have all accepted invitations to compete against the Wanderers youngsters in what promises to be a fun-filled and action packed afternoon.
President John McDougall said: “We first had the rugby festival in 2008 to coincide with the Royal opening of our clubhouse and when we reintroduced our sevens competition last season we felt it was a good idea to incorporate all aspects of the club in an end of season event.
“The weekend itinerary will follow a tried and trusted formula and we are looking forward to a great few days of rugby.” The rugby commitment is the main feature of the festival but there will also be plenty of social activity for patrons to enjoy over the weekend, including live music, a burger stall, tuck shop, beer tent, raffles, hot and cold food and all the usual fun of the fair associated with such a prestigious event.
A report on the festival will appear in the Tele during the week.
Wanderers are sponsored by Texas Instruments.