by Elena Hogarth

AYR RFC handed out their annual awards last Friday to celebrate a terrific year for every section of the club.

With the disappointment of just missing out on the BT Cup the previous weekend now subsided, Ayr looked back on a season in which the men’s 1st XV won the BT Premiership, the 2nd XV equalled their best ever finish of second place in BT National Reserve 1, Millbrae RFC maintained their spot in BT West 2, Ayr Ladies won Premier B and the boys’ and girls’ teams captured league titles and trophies, not to mention the continued growth of playing and supporting numbers at the club.

The top prize of the night went to George Hunter, who was named player of the year, an accolade that could have been bestowed upon any number of his team-mates. He has not only been an immovable force when scrumming down in the front row but spent various matches moving through every position in the forwards. When an injury crisis hit the second row, it was Hunter who provided more than adequate cover.

Players’ player of the year was scrum-half David Armstrong.

Tenacious, industrious and clever, he’s also ‘indestructible’, according to head coach Calum Forrester. He’s taken a battering this season, most noticeably at Heriot’s when the entire pack trundled over the top of him, ripping the skin off his lower leg. He was back playing the next week.

Most improved player was 21-year-old Lewis Anderson. A live wire on and off the pitch, the hooker has seen his skill levels rise throughout the year. The addition to the coaching team of Glasgow Warriors’ Pat MacArthur has undoubtedly boosted Anderson and all of the forwards.

Stafford McDowall (18) scooped young player of the year, capping off an impressive season that saw him chucked in at the deep end of BT Premiership rugby and not just coping but thriving. A bright future awaits the big centre from Kirkcudbright.

For Ayr Ladies, Catherine Shennan was player of the year, Erin McSorley young player of the year, Joanne Jones most improved and Julie David players’ player. It’s been a remarkable effort from the squad who lost several members to retirement upon being promoted to the BT Premier League.

From struggling at the start of the season, the ladies, led by captain Laura Turner, have grown into a formidable force within Scottish women’s rugby.

Millbrae RFC handed out awards to Tony Hall and Gregor Hynds, with the 2nd XV awarding Graham Hunter player of the year and Zac Howard and Lewis Young most improved.

The young player and players’ player for the 2nd XV are ones to watch. Teenagers Robbie Smith and Paddy Dewhirst have both impressed in their debut season in senior rugby, turning out for the 1st XV and being called up to Scotland U20s training squads, with Smith playing in their Six Nations tournament alongside McDowall.

Of the many recipients of awards from the U16 and U18 boys, Cameron Reece is another to keep an eye on.

A special inspiration award was given to second row Craig Stevenson, who received a liver transplant nine years ago and remarkably regained his health to become an outstanding youth player and take up his place in the 1st XV this season.

Will Bordill received a gift of cufflinks from the squad to mark his three seasons with the club. Now working in London, his unwavering support of and service to Ayr RFC was applauded. Ross Curle was presented with a framed gallery of some of his best moments in a pink and black shirt, but the door remains open for the centre, who is yet to decide on retirement.

The trophy presentations continued away from the awards dinner, as Ayr-Wellington U15 girls were crowned National Shield champions at BT Murrayfield on Saturday, beating Lismore 70-20, with Hazel Macmillan player of the match.

It was a terrific achievement for the squad and especially coaches Catherine Shennan and Connie Griffiths, who have worked tirelessly to build their team at an age when both girls and boys tend to fall away to concentrate on school work.

The U15 boys then followed suit on Sunday, beating GHA 67-10 at Millbrae to win the West Regional Shield and bring the season to an end on yet another high for Ayr RFC.

Players will enjoy the off-season before pre-season begins in July.