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Article by Craig Brown and Iain Sinclair 

In response to a call to support a former team mate, opposition player and good friend, the King Penguins rallied to get a squad together to play in the My Name’5 Doddie foundation rugby match day as put on by the Mackie Academy FP RFC and STRIVE. The rugby tournament was only part of the events arranged with a 5 day cycle challenge and a celebratory charity ball also taking place.

Overall, all 3 events raised £85,000 for a very worthwhile cause. The rugby tournament contributed £22,000 to this total.

The sun shone in a rather blustery Stonehaven, for the well organised Rugby Vets tourney at the welcoming Mackie RFC. The tournament featured 8 teams in the vets format, including Mackie Academy FP RFC, Howe of Fife, Pigbarians, Ellon, BRUCE, Orkney, a select Aberdeen team called the Auld Gypes and the King Penguins. Through the recruiting prowess of KPs John Kerr and Iain Sinclair a number of international players turned out for the King Penguins including a number who had played for the Penguins previously. The KP team included Scotland lock Stuart Grimes, props Barry Stewart and Tom Smith (B&I Lions), wing Nikki Walker, centre Marcus DiRollo, and hooker Kevin MacKenzie.  

The tournament rule split the 8 teams into two pools of four with round robin matches. Post pool matches the two pool winners advanced to the final. The rules did not allow for kicking penalty goals or conversions and each try was worth 1 point.


Backrow: Stephen Wands, Alan Kerr, Neil Young (KP Manager), Stewart Grimes (Coach), Gav Brown, Jay Nicholas, Nikki Walker, John Szkudro 

Middle row: David Officer, Jamie Blackwood, Chris Black, Duncan Small, Fergus Henderson, Scott Glynn, Kevin MacKensie 

Front row: Barry Stewart, Neil Renton, Marcus DiRollo (Captain), John Kerr (KP President), Iain Sinclair (PIRFC Manager), Tom Smith 

Absent: Yuill Irvine (Water boy), Graeme Kiddie

It’s well recognised, the direct impact the rugby family have when rallying to the cause of its own and in this case, our squad was assembled to support fundraising for Scottish and Lions rugby Legend, Doddie Weir and his charity “My Names Doddie Foundation”.  It is however, worth highlighting the indirect impact our great game has when rally to a cause.  The tournament brought former players, family members and general public back to the Mackie rugby ground, many of whom by their own admission, had not frequented in the recent past.  We hope that part of Foundation’s legacy will be that rugby clubs will benefit once again, form much needed support at grass roots level.

Anyway, after the KP’s usual planes, trains and automobiles, the once talented silver squad assembled for a day of “living in the past”…….!  Coach Grimes picked up his Penguin career, where he last left off in Orkney in 2007 by being notable by his absence pitch side.  He was however available for consulting by the committee tent and hotdog stall.   

First up was the enthusiastic Mackie Academy FP and as the 2-1 scoreline reflected, they meant business.  The match was kicked off by friend of the Penguins and after dinner speaker at our Scotland Dinner in 2013.  Indeed, Scott was appointed kicker for all our matches.  At the time of the tournament, Scott had battled and seen off liver cancer. However, I am sad to report that Scott passed away after a brave battle with Cancer in December 2019 and a number of Penguins, including friend John Kerr, attended his funeral.   In the months following the Stonehaven tournament, Scott often reached out to a good few of us, recounting how proud he was to part of the Penguin family and how much it meant to him being involved that weekend. 

As is always the KP way, there are 10 maybe even 15 minutes to learn the names of your new teammates, make up some moves and then run them through. With that, it's perhaps no surprise that there were perhaps more turnovers than passes made in the first half by the KP’s and that saw Lions Legend and Penguin debutant, Tom Smith, acknowledge his frustration with Gavin Brown as another pass failed to hit the mark.  PIRFC Manager, Iain Sinclair also lived up to expectations, retiring hurt after a 5-minute cameo and all in, the first 15mins of rugby were quite forgettable for the Penguins. 

After some much-needed soul searching and even more needed on boarding of fluid, the KP’s started the second half with something that was more representative of the talent on the pitch.  Some robust forays into Mackie’s half by the abrasive Szkudro and irrepressible KP Manager, Neil Young, saw the KP’s slowly build a platform that would enable Chris Black to serve useful ball to Captain DiRollo who sent Nikki Walker in for his first of the afternoon and boy did we start to look good as KP’s ground out the 2-1 victory. 

Next up was our old friends from Orkney.  There was plenty of pre-match bluff and bluster from Orkney who enjoyed recounting their famous victory against the Penguins during their 50th anniversary celebration weekend.  Former Scotland front row bear, Barry Stewart who was packing down that day alongside Ulster and Ireland’s Simon Best, said little but Young, Blackwood and Wands who were also playing that day, were determined to put the record straight, this time as a KP. 

The match was once again kicked off by Scotty Glynn and that was the end of the pleasantries.  KP’s accuracy to hand was encouraging and soon David Officer galloped through the loose mid-field gate of the Orkney backline to nose the KP’s ahead after 7 mins on the clock.  The Islanders dug in and were more than a match in the tight for the Penguins but the threat out wide was never far away for the Penguins.

Despite the promising start, there were at times, some over complications of moves by the KP backs, that saw much endeavour but little reward.  The preferred offensive defence approach by the Orcadians saw them sneak a well-deserved score before half-time. One a piece. 

The second half got under way and the Penguins meant business.  Tom Smith was mesmeric with ball in hand and looks like he still has at least another season in blue jersey in him and was ably supported upfront by Alan Kerr.  A fine passage of inter-play between the youthful (its all relative in your 40’s) Graeme Kiddie and “experienced” Nelly Renton, made for enjoyable watching on the side lines and more importantly, lead to try number 2 for the Penguins from racehorse Walker.  Orkney weren’t done however and took advantage of some midfield KP confusion to wander in under the posts.  The final word and rightly so, went to Magic Wands who put the ghost of Pickaquoy 2016 to bed by throwing an audacious inside pass to Watsonians Peter Pan, Fergus Henderson, who calmly dotted down. 3-2 KP’s.

The 3rd match against the Howe of Fife was a one sided affair but the KP’s got the balance of spirit of rugby and entertaining the crowd.  All those fit that could lace boots, had a run about and the score line was academic and somewhat charitable from the KP’s, running out 3-1 winners to tee up a KP v Auld Gypes in the final.

The King Penguins line up with Howe of Fyfe post match

The final kicked off again by Scotty Glynn, had an altogether different tempo about it.  The right two teams were in the final and the physical intensity of the early exchanges, were the proof of that. Stewart, Szkudro and Smith were in their element, with Young salivating at the prospect of contact. Against expectation the Auld Gypes scored first with a brave foray down the far blind side and draw first blood. That would be the last time that the AG’s would take the initiative as DiRollo supported by El Presidente Kerr, steadied the troops to take the game right back at them. Some effortless running and clever probing of space by Black, lead to Duncan Small, offloading to Officer for a try under the posts. Game on.  The second KP try from Walker was matched by a freak Auld Gypes interception.  Final word went to KP’s and fittingly a multi-phase, through the hands finish to see KP’s run out winners by 3-2 in the final. 

A fantastic day with special thanks to our hosts and now fellow King Penguin, Andrew Mitchell for making all feel so welcome and with money made, old friendships re-kindled and new ones made, it was another fantastic result for the KP’s.

Captain DiRollo receives the winning trophy

The King Penguins clapping off Auld Gypes after the final

Jack Speak
Community Group
Jack Speak
Community Group