Ali McGrandles named chief of Stirling Highland Games

FORMER Scottish rugby player Ali McGrandles has been named leader of this year’s Stirling Highland Games.

Ali, born in Stirling, was a pioneer of women’s rugby in Scotland starting her career with Stirling County aged just eight before winning 50 international caps.

Ali, who played in the 1994, 1998 and 2002 Rugby World Cups, takes on the role of chef at the event on Saturday August 20.

It will be the first in-person event since 2019 and the packed program includes traditional and adaptive heavyweight competitions, tug of war, Highland dancing and a dining experience.

Ali said: “I was absolutely thrilled to hear that the committee chose me as their leader, it’s such an honor and a wonderful opportunity to return to where it all began for me.

“As someone who was born and raised in Stirling and still has strong ties to the region, having the chance to be a chef and host the games is just thrilling and I’m proud and honored to have this role.

“And as a physical education teacher and someone who has been involved in sport from an early age, it’s fantastic to oversee all the sporting activity that will take place.”

Ali excelled in sports as a youngster, playing both rugby and hockey.

She then played rugby at university and was selected for Scotland’s first-ever women’s international against Ireland in 1993.

Ali had a long career in international women’s rugby before retiring in 2002 and is still involved in the sport coaching a London school rugby team where she works as an assistant manager.

She also has a long association with the Highland Games community, attending various events as a child and helping behind the scenes at the Stirling Highland Games in recent years.

The honorary role of Head of Games is chosen by the Stirling Highland Games Committee from a list of famous sons and daughters of the town who excel in their respective disciplines.

Cat Cripps, the organizer of the Chiefs’ Gathering, said: “Each year the committee reviews the talents and achievements of the sons and daughters of Stirling and how they have excelled in their field.

“Ali has a fantastic pedigree in her sport and we are delighted to announce that she will be the leader of the Stirling Highland Games 2022.

“She will be a brilliant host on the day which will be very special this year as we all look forward to returning to the live event.”

Last year organizers presented a series of online events to keep the spirit of the Stirling Highland Games alive.

Now fans around the world are ready to return to the playing field, at the Stirling Sports Village, in person.

Games run from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and tickets can be purchased in advance now or on the day.

Spectators can enjoy a full day of events including watching heavyweight competitors compete in the hammer throw, shot put and caber throw as well as athletics.

They can also see the grueling Bruce Challenge, unique to the Stirling Games, which sees strongmen carry two boulders weighing over 164kg as far as they can and an adaptive heavyweight competition featuring the Wounded Highlanders.

Meanwhile, the unique dining experience will showcase award-winning Scottish produce and there will be heritage tours on site.

The 2022 Highland Games are sponsored and funded by various organizations including Active Stirling, EventScotland, Forth Valley Chamber of Commerce, Specsavers Stirling and the Highland Reserve Forces and Cadets Association.

For full match details and to book tickets, visit stirlinghighlandgames.com


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Jennifer R. Strohm