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Drop in interest for Highland Academies Community League could force Paulin into strategy rethink

By Andrew Henderson

A drop in participation numbers could make the Highland Academies Community League (HACL) take a new recruitment tactic in the future, according to league organiser Robbie Paulin.

The schools competition serves as a precursor to the Highland Wildcats’ season, but this year there were only enough players to form three teams.

Inverness High School has had the highest turnout, while Charleston Academy have retained a strong core from last year’s squad.

Numbers are down for the 2020 season of the Highland Academies Community League. Picture: Scott MacDonald
Numbers are down for the 2020 season of the Highland Academies Community League. Picture: Scott MacDonald

Millburn Academy and Inverness Royal Academy – who have both formed standalone squads in previous years – have had to join forces with Dingwall Academy to form the third team.

Paulin, also head coach of the Wildcats this year, believes their former recruitment methods are not as effective anymore for some reason.

“This year we’ve found the promotion and recruitment side of things quite difficult,” he explained.

“It has probably been the lowest numbers that we’ve had this year, and I don’t know whether it’s down to different ways of communicating with pupils, whether that’s just changing.

“In some ways it has made people realise that this is all just to get people interested in the Wildcats rather than it being this really competitive league.

“But at the same time, it is disappointing. We are still giving them competition, but it’s a shame that we can’t get it where it’s a bit more varied competition with a few more schools involved.

“It’s also making us rethink how we’re going to promote it next year and how we work with schools – they have been brilliant, but it’s maybe up to us to have a look and see if we can change how we do things.”

The first round of matches took place last weekend, with all three teams facing each other in round-robin games.

Charleston claimed the early advantage, with their Knights beating both the High School Predators and the combined Sharks team.

The final match of the day pitted the Predators against the Sharks, and it was a close affair before the High School won by two points.

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