Peterhead Rugby Club has an air of optimism around it as the new season gets under way.
Last term the team achieved its highest league finish in a decade and the players and coaches are aiming for a higher finish this time round.
In recent years the club has seen an influx of younger players from around the north-east, with their pace and ability in the backs is proving the biggest difference.
The Blue Toon has always had a more than capable pack, but has struggled in the backs for years and, just five years ago, the club struggled to field 15 players some Saturdays.
Those appear to be days gone by now though with full squads of 22 now a regular sight at Catto Park on a Saturday.
PRFC head coach Neil Davidson said: “Recent seasons have seen the club’s average age drop by about 15 years. Peterhead has survived through a tough few years which have seen bigger clubs finding it difficult to field 2nd and 3rd teams due to poor numbers.
“We have now had a number of young players, who have come together over two or three seasons, and are finding a sense of camaraderie and commitment to each other and the club giving a real team-spirit. We have also seen a few of the older players retire and instead of hanging up their boots and turning to golf, gardening and other geriatric pursuits they have put their time back into a club which has given them a lot of happy memories. This means that for the first time the bulk of the committee is made up of ex-players allowing the current team more time to enjoy the sport.”
Despite early seasons defeats in the Bowl to Highland rivals Inverness Craig Dunain and to an Aberdeen University team who are tipped to take the league title, Davidson feels the players will pick-up points on a regular basis this season.
“We hope to build on the progress made over the last few seasons and improve the clubs standing in the north-east,” he said.
“We want to continually push our players and club in the community as well as on the park raising the profile of rugby in a town dominated by football. Youth is certainly a big aspect of this club now, but this comes with the problem of lack of experience.
“We are continually learning and improving our game and I think that our big strength at this time is in the quality of our backs. They are fast and improving all the time coupled and with a physical pack we hope to be winning more games.
“Catto park has always been a hard place to come and most teams leave, even on occasion with a good win under their belts, knowing they have been in a game.”
Although Davidson is happy with the progress the club has made in recent years, he admits he would like to see more depth in the squad with injuries an inevitability in a physically tough sport, as well as the added problems caused with players working away from home.
“As a club the existing structure is starting to pay dividends but we need a broader base of players,” he said.
“I believe there are plenty of people in the area who would enjoy rugby but are unaware of the existence of Peterhead.”
The 2013/14 season marks the 30th anniversary of the club and Davidson said he hoped it would be memorable both on and off the pitch.