Preston Lodge will give support duties in tomorrow’s National Shield final against Caithness at Cumbernauld to a player who started the season as a first choice wing but is now in remission from cancer.
Jordan Eales, 20, was diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma after playing in pre-season matches and his battling spirit is an inspiration to team-mates, says coach Mark Steedman.
Steedman says: “Two weeks ago Jordan got the all-clear and that is marvellous news.
“At one stage his chances were 30-70 and he has really been through the mill.
“Jordan will play for us again, but not until 2015 as he’s had a bone marrow transplant and needs time to recover.
“However, it is important to keep him involved. When we play Caithness he’ll help organise the players’ warm-up and ensure the kicking tee is taken out when required.”
Jordan says: “I want to get back fit, that’s the aim. What a season to miss out on!”
In fact, PL have swept all before them to reach the final unbeaten in both league and knock-out competitions.
With the East Division One trophy and the regional shield on the sideboard the club are also through to the final of the East Lothian Cup against North Berwick on Saturday week.
But coach Steedman insists: “All we are thinking about is Caithness, who are quality, as shown when winning twice against Perthshire, the team who eventually won their Caledonia Division One title.
“We played them a few years ago and found them difficult to overcome.”
That Preston Lodge are finally on the move is a great relief to Steedman.
“Having started out in National League Division One when I arrived as coach (from Musselburgh), we twice gained promotion only to be denied by reconstruction.
“Finally, we’re back in National League Division One!”
One of the key players has been Jordan Eales’ 22-year-old brother, Darren.
“Darren is dual registered with Melrose, as part of our aim is to show young lads there is a pathway to the top and as a prop he is certainly good enough for the higher level,” says Steadman. “Next season we’ll have a colts team operating and our youth structure in conjunction with Preston Lodge High is working well, thanks largely to Chris Thomas, the local PE teacher who works with us.
“The underlying reason behind our success is maybe the youthfulness of the team. Everything is reasonably new and that has kept everybody focused as we have gone along unbeaten. Having a woman president in Shona Brash is a big plus, too, in terms of concentrating on ensuring the admin side of the club runs smoothly.”
Meanwhile, lining up at full back for PL will be Graeme Patterson, who has already contributed more than 300 points in this halcyon season.