Game changing.

Two words that perfectly describe the situation at Corstorphine Cougars and their plans for the future.

The last decade has been a tumultuous one for the club after a 2003 merger with Royal High FP was dissolved in 2017.

Corstorphine, still under the name of Royal High Corstorphine at that time, returned to their old home of Union Park, dropping into the East Region from the National Leagues. It’s taking them some time but they are now pushing forward and they are among the most ambitious rugby clubs in the country.

While the men’s team play in the East Region Division Two, the women’s team are in the Premiership and provided 11 players to Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors during this year’s Celtic Challenge.

Two of those, Alex Stewart and Merryn Gunderson have since earned call-ups to the Scotland squad for their performances, with Stewart winning her first cap in the Women's Six Nations win over Wales. 

Vice-president Steve Wright is determined to make the club one of the best in the country but the first aim is to make them one of the top five in Edinburgh - no mean feat considering the competition. Wright, though, feels Corstorphine have the capabilities to become one of the capital's leading clubs.

Facilities have been a problem, with the clubhouse at Union Park falling into disrepair

The club was awarded a £250,000 grant from Scottish Rugby's Growth & Participation Fund, which was established from £5 million Scottish Government funding during the Covid pandemic. 

Wright said: “We had been in discussion with the council for five or six years with SRU and SportScotland for about four or five years."

"Anyone else wanting to do it needs to know it takes a long time. We thought we were pretty good at it but it’s taken a long time.

“About a year after we came in the council said to us ‘look, the building is in a pretty bad state and we were about to put it on the demolition list ’."

Wright said the club then brokered a deal to buy the building from City of Edinburgh Council for £1. 

"We thought we could get funding for it," he added.

Scotland Rugby News:

The existing clubhouse has four changing rooms, but only two sets of showers, which makes playing men's and women's matches on the same day a real challenge. 

With the help of the six-figure funding from the SRU, work is being done to improve the Victorian pavilion. 

The redevelopment will see four changing rooms built, each with its own entrance and shower blocks. Four new refereeing rooms will also be built. 

On top of that, work is being done to add a gym as well as other rooms that can be used by the community including a physiotherapist and places for after-school clubs to rent out.

Those additional facilities will help Corstorphine raise the money the club requires to keep improving on and off the field.

They’re aware it will take a while but Wright has pointed out that there aren’t many clubs like them with so many teams at senior level and the facilities need to be brought up to scratch to get them through the leagues.

He said: “What we want to do is have Costorphine Cougars recognised as one of Edinburgh’s top five clubs, which we should be.

“We’re arguably Scotland’s biggest women’s club. We’ve got two XV’s for the women and two XVs for the men. There are not a lot of clubs running four XVs. We’re doing it in facilities that are almost falling apart.

"Often we get feedback from players we’re trying to attract about the facilities being a bit rubbish.

“The strength and conditioning that the women’s 1st XV gets is external and we can only afford so much. This work means every senior player and soon youths as well will be able to benefit from the strength and conditioning unit and coach-led sessions.

“It’ll be a massive help. It should improve the conditioning of a lot of our players. It won’t have as big an impact on the women’s Premiership team because they are already on a scheme that we do with the SRU.

“It should develop more of a team mentality because they are together. We’ve been very close with the women’s team but we haven’t won much recently. We were very close last year and very unfortunate.

“As a club we provided more players to Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors set up than anyone else.

"We want to make that pathway clear to players in Edinburgh, we’re the club that will help push you to that level. We have plans to strengthen our girls section.

“We think we’ve got a tremendous set-up to help us move forward, and by taking ownership of the asset.

"We’re going to build. It’s not going to be immediate but over the next two or three years we’re going to get stronger and stronger in women’s rugby.”

Scotland Rugby News: Scotland back-row Alex Stewart

Returning the men’s team to past glories is of equal importance, but Wright admits that is a much more difficult challenge.

Wright wants to return the club to the national leagues and he knows the new facilities will help to attract more players. 

He continued: “The facilities can attract players because we feel we’re a natural home.

“We’re a very friendly and family-focused club. Anybody that comes to us will see. that.

"We just need a few more players who have a wee bit more experience to lead it.

"We’re only two or three players short to get to the next division. If we can attract a few more than that then the sky is the limit.

“There’s bigger opportunity you could argue on the men’s side. We’ve already reached out to a number of our friends.

"There are a lot of Corstorphine boys in a lot of places, we want to stop the natural progression of people coming to Edinburgh for university or college automatically picking Heriot's or Watsonians. We want to be part of that discussion.

“This is game-changing. What I’ve said to all the members is we’re looking for a once-in-a-generation opportunity and this is it.

“If you ever thought about helping, help now. This is when it’s going to happen. We are asking for volunteers to be part of the journey, players to come along and be a part of their side and be part of this journey as we climb because we will.”