The annual Shetland Midsummer Rugby Sevens tournament, sponsored by BP, begins on Friday night with the mixed touch competition.
All male and female players, including all juniors and their families, are invited along for a fun evening, with the barbecue and beer tent and bar open until 9pm. On Saturday and Sunday the tent will be open until 6pm.
The tournament proper gets underway on Saturday, with registration at 11am sharp. Despite the credit crunch this year’s tournament looks to be the biggest for some time, with around 100 players, which has delighted organisers John Roy Nicolson and Bryan Leask of Shetland Rugby Football Club.
Nicolson said they had worked hard to secure more teams from the mainland for this year’s event, which had paid off. Unfortunately perennial favourites Greenock RFC were unable to make it, due to the current financial climate, but Orkney, who won the event last year are hopefully coming, although they have ruled out another trip in the Dunter III.
The new boys this year are two teams from Arbroath, who won an agonisingly narrow victory against Shetland in the Scottish Cup back in November. Most of the players in these squads, however, are Royal Marines from 45 Commando based at Condor outside Arbroath. They have recently returned from active service in Afghanistan and were desperate for some rugby. Nicolson said they were really keen to come to Shetland and were looking forward to getting out on the pitch and socialising with the locals.
The other teams confirmed are Aberdeenshire and the Shetland Exiles, led by Shetland RFC cultural attaché Jimmy Smale. The exiles may, however, have more cheerleaders than players, so former exiles may be brought in to make up the numbers.
Local interest has been high with last year’s wooden spooners, Shetland Recreational Trust, apparently conducting secret training sessions. Clickimin manager Robert Geddes would not confirm, when interviewed, if he had been passing on his vast knowledge to his staff, possibly because he felt it could damage his reputation as Shetland’s sevens guru.
Delting are the new team on the block and so far are keeping their game plan and squad pretty quiet. What is known that young Shetland players Ian Nicol and Iuan Webb are at the forefront of getting the squad together. With Scalloway express Aaron Leask also being collared for the team, they could be dark horses.
The North Zetland Vets, led by John Roy Nicolson and featuring Derek Ross, Martin Sidgwick and the over-40s, will no doubt play a tight game based around their experienced pack of three. They will be a team that could cause upsets on the peerie pitch.
The Shetland Colts, consisting of various fit young whippersnappers, will make up for their lack of experience with unbound enthusiasm. Look out for the outrageous side-stepping Niall Christie.
Last year’s third-placed team Shetland Barbarians will look to up the ante this year, with stalwarts Stewart Jamieson and Lincoln Carroll. They have recruited footballers Stuart Smith, Bruce McCulloch, Connel Gresham and former Shetland goalkeeper Paul Grant.
The Shetland select squad has had to do without guru Geddes this year, as well as Lewis King and Shane Jamieson who are playing in the football junior inter-county next week. However, captain Matthew Nicolson has put together an interesting squad, who should push for honours, with Kristian Fraser, Stewart Mouat, James Sinclair, Peter Sidgwick and Maurice Williamson leading the charge.
Club spokesman John Roy Nicolson said he was excited about the event and was anticipating a full weekend of action, beginning on Friday night with touch, the sevens on Saturday and ending with the survivors’ match on Sunday.
Nicolson praised all those involved in organising the tournament, especially the sponsors BP Sullom Voe and their partners without whom the event would not take place. He also thanked NorthLink Ferries, which is charged with bringing the players safely to Shetland and back again.