A FORMER captain of Haddington Rugby Club is determined to bring through the next generation of the sport.

Colin Stuart has been playing rugby for more than 25 years and has taken on a new role within the club.

The new club development officer aims to help grow participation and performance, including in girls, mini rugby and working alongside Knox Academy and the town primary schools to nurture budding rugby stars of the future.

The 36-year-old: “I’m just trying to develop players and coaches from the minis right through to the seniors.

“I am focusing on the transition from the minis to the school of rugby at Knox Academy and from the under-18s into the senior team.

“I’m trying to develop all the players coming through and to be there for the coaches and help coach development – it is a little of everything.”

The club’s mini rugby programme, aimed at youngsters trying out the sport for the first time, is celebrating 50 years.

Colin, who lives in East Linton, first picked up the sport through the programme when he was in primary school.

Since then, it has been a staple of his life and taken him across the country with the Reds, who play in East Region League Division One.

The firefighter will work alongside youngsters at the town’s schools, including The Compass School, and beyond, and stressed that rugby was about more than just 80 minutes on the pitch.

The club’s development officer is a full-time paid role and Mr Stuart said: “Rugby has given me quite a lot of positive experiences – the team-building aspect of it and just the values rugby clubs have got, especially Haddington, for inclusion.

“One of my goals is to start a girls’ rugby team and promote girls’ and women’s rugby. Rugby can take all shapes, sizes, genders, everything – there really is a position for everyone.

“From the mental health point of view, we all know what is going on with the pandemic. Getting down to play touch rugby, coming down to training and seeing friends, speaking and engaging with people – it is massive.”

Keith Wallace, president of the Neilson Park club, was excited about the move and what it meant for the club.

He said: “Community clubs like us have a prime role in introducing kids to our great game and this in turn plays a key role in developing our senior players for the future.

“It is therefore great, in the year we celebrate 50 years of mini rugby, to be able to increase our focus in this area, through additional funding from ourselves, the SRU and from Haddington and Lammermuir Area Partnership.

“We are delighted to have appointed local man Colin, who as a player and ex-club captain has already been a great servant to us, and brings a knowledge of the club and game which, combined with his passion and energy, will be of great benefit.”