Portobello will take the field at BT Murrayfield on Saturday looking to cap a successful season by adding the BT Bowl to promotion from East Division Two.
Remarkably, the success has been achieved without a club coach – with the responsibilities for preparing the side falling to three senior players.
One of that trio, lock Cammy Walker, is relishing the opportunity to run out at the national stadium when Blairgowrie provide the opposition. And he is hopeful the Cavalry Park men can put on a performance that will convince an experienced coach to take the reins next season.
A year ago, with Porty having narrowly avoided a second successive relegation, Graham Inglis left the club. His replacement Gavin Hume lasted only a short time in the role because of family commitments. That left Walker, Michael Ridd and Darren Roe to share the duties.
“We set up a WhatsApp group to discuss where we had gone wrong in games and what we needed to work on in training,” explained Walker.
“It all just went from strength to strength and we kept winning. People want to be part of a winning team and we had a lot of guys coming out of the woodwork.”
With player numbers and confidence growing, a mix of youngsters who have come through the club’s youth ranks and experienced men, several of whom have played at a higher level, continued to build a run of winning performances. The season has featured several eye-catching contributions, not least from fleet-footed winger Ali Bain, who bagged a hat-trick in Saturday’s 59-5 win over Dalkeith to take his tally to 30 for the season.
Walker believes that solid foundations are now in place, provided the right individual can be recruited.
“Ultimately, we want a coach with experience but one who is willing to work with a game plan that plays to our strengths,” he added, suggesting that it is realistic to target further promotions provided the club can retain its top personnel.
“There is a lot of talent in the team and a lot of potential. The guys are very motivated and working really hard. They have stepped up to the plate this season. With the right coaching, the right guidance and the right approach, they can become much better players. If we can keep hold of them, there could be more success to come. We are going in the right direction as a club.”
Saturday’s Bowl final offers an opportunity for the players to go one better than the 2008 Plate final when they lost to Aberdeen University, as well as a chance to showcase those skills, and Walker plans to enjoy the experience. “I am 32 this year and my playing career is in the twilight years,” he said. “I don’t think I will be in this position again so for me it is the last opportunity.
“And the youngsters can’t wait to play at Murrayfield. But it’s not just a big day for the players. The wives, girlfriends and all the support players also get the chance to share the excitement.”
While there have been efforts to assess the strength of the opposition, Walker and his colleagues on the coaching committee will be focusing their efforts on ensuring Porty are ready for the challenge. “Blairgowrie are a bit of an unknown quantity. We’ve looked at their results, watched some video clips and read their match reports to see if we can work out what their game plan will be,” he pointed out. “But there’s no need for us to make wholesale changes. We will be working on the smaller parts of the game that we can influence. We don’t want any departure from our normal tactics.
“But, win, lose or draw, it will be a big day for us, and we are planning to make it a big night back at the club as well.”