Chirnside footballers share top award

CHIRNSIDE footballing success stories Liam Craig of St Johnstone FC and Scotland Ladies' Joelle Murray were the stars of the show at the 2010 Berwickshire Sports Council Awards on Friday.

The range of sport and the level of ability in the region was clear to see at the annual ceremony at Duns Volunteer Hall, when the hard work, dedication and achievements of home-grown sporting talent was celebrated with silverware.

The awards evening rounded off an impressive year of sport in Berwickshire, which has seen familiar faces winning national titles, competing in world events and bringing hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of funding into the region.

The evening was presided over by popular double act and executive sports council members David Douglas and Henry Gray.

The top prize, sports personality of the year, was shared by footballing duo Liam Craig and Joelle Murray, both 23, who were back together again completed the double nine years after sharing the junior personality award in 2001 for their early achievements.

Both Liam and Joelle started kicking a ball about at under 10 level with the Coldstream Boys Club. The pair began to establish their talent and were team mates in a five-a-side set up which dominated the Border tournaments.

From Coldstream Joelle went to Chirnside boys club where she played until she turned 12 and could no longer play with the boys. She then had a trial with Hibs and subsequently signed for their U17s, winning every domestic honour at that level and captaining the team in her final season with the girls, before moving up to play for the Ladies.

She soon established herself at senior level and has played in the women's champions league four times.

Joelle was a member of the first Scotland U19 team to reach the European championship finals, and was this year a member of the Scotland squad who failed by just one point to qualify for the world cup, suffering only one defeat and one draw in the qualifying games.

Joelle's childhood teammate and fellow Chirnsider Liam Craig has also gone from strength to strength, finishing last season as the top scorer for St Johnston in the Scottish Premier League.

From Coldstream U10s Liam spent two years with Berwick Rangers' boys team, before he too went to Edinburgh, playing on the other side of the city from Joelle, at Hearts until he was 16. From Hearts he made the move south of the Border to Ipswich, where he certainly made his mark, captaining their FA Youth Cup winning team.

He then joined Falkirk before signing for St Johnstone, and was an important member of the first division champion team that won promotion to the premier league in 2009.

Henry told the assembled crowd that he trained Liam over the pre-season two years ago, along with Ross Patterson, a young lad from Eyemouth. "During this time Ross was rushed to hospital with appendicitis, and when Liam came down to train the next again week he asked where Ross was," explained Henry. "I told him he was at home recovering from his operation, and Liam immediately got in his car and paid a surprise visit to Ross's house with a signed football strip.

That for me showed the attitude and character of Liam Craig."

The junior personality of the year was awarded to former Eyemouth High School pupil and England U17 rugby squad member Scott Wilson.

Describing a busy year for Scott, Henry said: "He's had to juggle regular training sessions with Berwick, Northumberland, North of England, Newcastle Falcons and England. If you throw in gym sessions, goal setting with diet and fitness, and then consider the small matter of Standard Grade exams it gives you a flavour of the sort of year Scott's had."

But the hard work was worth it; selection for Northumberland lead to a North of England place at the Divisional Festival in Coventry for Scott, and then came U16 England honours at the 4 Nations Festival in Rome. Scott has just been confirmed in the England U17 squad for the coming year and is also a member of the Newcastle Falcons Academy.

Scott won a rugby scholarship and now attends the prestigious Sedbergh School in Cumbria which has produced a number of international rugby stars.

He is also a talented athlete and despite his schedule managed to squeeze in the odd hammer event leading to a Scottish Schools cap in the recent Schools International whilst he was still at Eyemouth High School.

Scott travelled up from Sedbergh after school on Friday to collected his award in person, before turning round and heading back in time to play a rugby game on Saturday, proof, said David Douglas, of his dedication and character.

Scottish Schools U16 badminton doubles champions, Andrew McQuarrie and Adam Don, who took the prestigious title for the Berwickshire High School earlier this year, were named team of the year.

The pair became the first Borders duo in 12 years to win the U16s title, after playing outstandingly at the Tryst Centre in Cumbernauld. Twenty couples originally started the high standard competition with the first round matches being played in a round robin pool event.

Andrew and Adam were placed in the A draw after winning all of their pool matches, and went on to beat Declan and Liam Doyle in the knockout matches to reach the semi final. They then beat the number two seeds Alexander Caughey and James Milton before defeating Callum Riddell and Callum Stevenson 22-20-28-26 to become U16 champions.

Greenlaw Football Club's Billy Smillie, who took on Greenlaw's junior team 15 years ago when it was on the verge of folding, was named senior coach of the year. Greenlaw take great pride in the number of youngsters that go on to play adult football and have had more than their share who go on to play in the East of Scotland league, and even some who have progressed to do scholarships in football.

Henry said: "You can be rest assured that if it was not for the Billy Smillies of this world who volunteer their services for free in Berwickshire and the Borders, there would be no football talent coming through."

Billy was also presented with a special award, donated to Berwickshire Sports Council from the Scottish Association of Local Sports Councils (SALSC), in recognition of all the work he has put in to secure more than 300,000 in funding to create Berwickshire's very own centre for football at Greenlaw.

Work has now begun at the Harper Field site after the final piece in the funding jigsaw was approved in July.

The junior coach award was presented to Michelle Stewart, who has worked hard over the last year to support hockey in Berwickshire, assisting and leading weekly coaching sessions for young players at Berwickshire High School. Michelle, who has played hockey herself at international level, also helped with primary school hockey in the area and, having passed her level one coaching badge, is currently developing her umpiring skills.

Former athlete Allan Laidlaw was named winner of the male service to sport award. Following a prolific running career with a number of successes on the Border Professional Games circuit, Allan studied to become a qualified sprints and middle distance coach. He also qualified as a starter-marksman and has helped to officiate and timekeep at many local events. He is currently timekeeper for Kelso Wheelers and has been a starter on the Borders Open Athletics circuit and the Lake District sports at Ambleside and Grasmere for the past 26 years.

For 30 years of dedicated service to Coldstream Football Club, Mavis Patterson was presented with the female service to sport award. Mavis has been a part of Coldstream FC since her husband Jim volunteered her services as secretary at an extraordinary general meeting in 1980, when the club was on the verge of folding. Since then she has filled various roles at the club including chairman and is currently vice president.

Six special awards were also presented for excellent achievement over the last year, to:

• Equestrian vaulter Ross Foreman, from Duns, who is currently competing in the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky;

• Duns rally driver Euan Thorburn, who beat off some stiff opposition to win the 2009 Scottish Rally Championhship Group N title at the wheel of his Mitsubishi Lancer and was later selected for the British Rally Elite Academy;

• The first Scottish female open boxing champion and former Eyemouth High School pupil Katy Atkin;

• Duns karter Kirsty Young, who won the top female finisher for the second consecutive year at the UK Grande Finals recently;

• Young skiing sensation Charles Rankin from Chirnside, who has been busy winning junior races in Europe;

• Coldstream Curling Club, after four of their female players won the prestigious Aberdeen invitational and were runners up in the low road of the national ladies Henderson Bishop trophy at Lockerbie.