MOVING house does not instantly make it your home.
Highland waved goodbye to their old clubhouse last summer, consigned to the history books with an almighty closing party.
In its place came the multi-million pound new Canal Park, complete with its own gym, function rooms, artificial pitch and heated changing rooms.
While getting a hold of the facility itself was a huge lift to the club, it takes a while for it to properly feel like home.
Craig Irvine, a veteran of the old clubhouse, believes they are starting to get the homely feel they once had again.
“The new one is starting to get that feel,” said Irvine. “High Life Highland have still got a bit of a grip on it and have some events they’re holding, but once it formally gets handed over to us, we’ll be able to get some more events of our own in the calendar, get them gelling and socialising together.
“It’s a case of trying to bring boys closer together. It’s not that they were stand-offish, but this is helping them gel as part of the club. We’re starting to get that one club mentality again.”
Even something as basic as having hot water in the showers after the game has proved a luxury.
Irvine jokes that while players are still getting used to picking up burns off the artificial surface, it beats nearly catching hypothermia at the old Canal Park.
The new pitch provides benefits in the current climate, that it will only be unusable on rare occasions. A layer of snow prompted such an instance this week, with players instead moving to the covered artificial surface at Strathdearn Millennium Hall in Tomatin.
Last weekend’s call-off against Orkney presented another welcome opportunity for a team-bonding exercise.
No game meant an ideal opportunity for the Highland players to engage in the “12 pubs of Christmas”, touring Inverness and bring players closer together.
With between 40-50 players at training, it will be near-impossible for everyone to get to know each other on anything other than nickname-terms. These events help bridge that gap.
“It brings players together without rugby as a focal point,” said Irvine. “The new guys came out and it was a good mix between firsts and seconds. It was good to get out and let off some steam, which will be beneficial for us.”
There is a camaraderie about Highland, which you would expect for a club that trains all together on the same pitch twice a week.
Establishing that “one club mentality” again should not prove too difficult, evidenced by Irvine’s attitude to his game-time.
He spent the majority of last season in the seconds but has been drafted back into the firsts this year, mainly due to injury problems sustained by stand-off Iain Chisholm.
If it were a different sport, football for instance, players may take offence to dropping in and out of the firsts, taking a step down to a lower standard.
However Irvine sees it as an opportunity to help the club as a whole, rather than just himself.
“With a big squad, everyone has different skill-sets and the coaches may bring in different players to suit each game,” said Irvine. “I’m happy to do what I need to do for the club as a whole.
“If it wasn’t for Iain’s injury I think I would be on the periphery again but I’m glad to be in there and playing more rugby at a decent standard. But if I’m asked to play for the seconds, I’ll play for them.
“There’s still things I need to work on but with more game-time at a higher standard of rugby, it will bring out the best of my abilities.”
After the disappointment of a postponement last Saturday Highland are looking at the weather denying them yet again this Saturday as they prepare to play Haddington.
It is frustrating for coach Dave Carson as his side were looking good for another home victory and keeping up the pressure at the top of the table.
The squad will see very few changes with Erem Demirel primed to come back in and only Callum Carson, Chisholm and Seumas Ross out injured.
Highland’s second XV have a very tough away trip as they take on second-place Garioch. The game is more likely to go ahead and Highland have a far stronger squad ready to travel. With Lewis Sinclair coming back from injury he comes in at prop to boost the pack and several other players having impressed for the first XV come in, including winger Connor Ross.
Highland’s under-15 girls are due to play Dundee Eagles at Canal Park and this will be the only junior event on over the weekend. However, on Sunday the Minis and Micros have the last session of 2017.