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Wildcats withdraw from league

By Andrew Dixon

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Anyone interested in playing or coaching with the Highland Wildcats should contact team manager Bette Paulin on (01463) 242431.

"It should make the players want it more next season when they will be able to put that frustration and anger to good use on the gridiron against all the other teams who will expect nothing from us."

"I’m confident we will be back next year and all the other teams will look at us as a soft touch once again, but they will find out the hard way because this year out will hurt us.

"It is a lot of commitment, but it is also a lot of fun," added Ronald, who has travelled from Lossiemouth to participate for 11 years.

It is also actively seeking players and coaches, while youth Wildcats coach Robbie Paulin will be asked to return to the fold.

The club, which is located next to Queen’s Park Athletics Stadium, plans to stage initiatives like open days in a bid to recruit new talent.

"But the decision has been made and this is now time to rebuild."

"It would have been hard, but if the players had wanted to go forward together, I would have been with them," commented Ronald, who is set to remain offensive co-ordinator, while player Billy Mill has become the defensive co-ordinator.

The Wildcats were set for their toughest ever start to a season with five consecutive weekend matches, starting on 28th April at Dundee Hurricanes.

Poor attendance at weekly training sessions from the remaining squad has forced the club to make the decision, which was backed by the players.

Last season the club only won two games, both against newcomers Carlisle Border Reivers. Several players left the Wildcats during the off-season and have not been replaced.

Games could be played on the arranged dates for the season if the opposition and BAFA are willing.

Associate membership will mean the Wildcats have to play at least two games this year instead of the 10 scheduled matches — one home game to prove they can host a team and one away to show they can travel. These fixtures are still to be confirmed.

"I will now have to change things to make sure this doesn’t happen again."

"If we had withdrawn from the league during the season for not being able to raise a team then we would have risked not being able to play next year when the younger players would be old enough to join the senior ranks.

"It is the most sensible way forward," said Ronald, who retired as a senior player at the end of last season.

The decision is set to safeguard the senior team, which was established four seasons ago, for players from the 2011 BritBowl championship winning youth Wildcats.

The club has informed the British American Football Association (BAFA) and hopes it will be able to continue as an associate member.

"I wish all the players and coaches the best for the future but I just cannot continue after it has gone like this," MacRae added.

Twenty-two players are needed to run through full-team scenario, but the record number at training this season has been only 20 following a rally cry for every member of the squad to attend.

The Wildcats have 28 players in their squad, while other teams in the league such as Edinburgh Wolves have almost 80 players.

"I wouldn’t ask them to drive my car if they hadn’t been to lessons and this could have ended the same — people getting hurt."

"I don’t know exactly how or why it has got to this stage, but it would be too dangerous to field a team when the players have not been able to train properly together.

"There does not seem to be the same level of enthusiasm as there used to be, so things have to change.

"It’s disappointing and upsetting to leave, but the buck stops with me," said MacRae.

The former coach, who has been involved for six years, feared for the safety of his players due to training sessions attracting only a third of the squad on average.

Brian MacRae has been replaced as Highland Wildcats head coach by Dave Ronald after he said his position at the helm was untenable.

LACK of players has forced the region’s American football team to withdraw from this year’s campaign just one month before the season was due to start.

New Highland Wildcats head coach Dave Ronald
New Highland Wildcats head coach Dave Ronald

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