IT was not so long ago that Aberdeen Grammar's stalwarts were challenging for honours in the highest echelon of the Scottish grassroots game.

Yet, during that halcyon period, a visitor to Rubislaw could have been forgiven for wondering whether he or she had taken a wrong turning from Aberdeen to Adelaide after listening to the accents around the dressing-room and training pitch.

In recent seasons, the Granite City club have suffered rocky fortunes of their own and currently sit mid-table in the Scottish National League 1. Both they and Dundee HSFP have toiled since they suffered relegation and there are no shortage of people who believe the sport is in much worse shape than the Scottish Rugby Union would have you believe.

In the last few weeks alone, I've heard from clubs who have been unable to fulfil second XV fixtures, of others who have had to cancel under-18 games because they could not raise a team, and of Premiership organisations toiling to fulfil league obligations.

As a former professional prop at Glasgow Warriors, the Aberdeen Grammar coach, Stuart Corsar, is used to hard graft and being forced to dig deep. Which is probably just as well in his present circumstances. His team might have thrashed Hillhead-Jordanhill 64-3 on Saturday, but life has been no picnic. "We lost a lot of players and the majority of our pack in the summer, so this is a year of rebuilding and of finding out how much local talent we have in the city," said Corsar, a former Scotland A combatant.

"I don't think there is any point in bringing in a lot of imports, because we need to plan for the long term and that can't be achieved with a short-term fix. At the moment, I prefer blooding local lads, giving them their chance and seeing what combinations work, and we have already used 27 boys in our firsts.

"Some of the performances have been heartening, others less so, and we are still trying to put together a real 80-minute display, but I can't fault the attitude of those who have stepped into the side.

"I'm quite clear that promotion isn't on the radar this year, because we have to find a style which suits us. It's a new experience for everybody, including myself.

"I am learning, and I sometimes make mistakes, but the lads are dedicated to improving Aberdeen's fortunes and, although we are in the early stages, I have seen signs of promise. We just have to keep driving forward."

Behind the scenes, there is uncertainty over the future of Rubislaw - which is situated in a prime site for housing development - and Corsar is under no illusions about where rugby lies in the city's list of sporting priorities. But he is a redoubtable customer and you get the feeling he welcomes the challenge of transforming Grammar.

"It was disappointing and frustrating to slip out of the top flight, because we lost several matches by one of two points where we had opportunities to win and we simply didn't take them," said Corsar. "If it had been the case that we were being outplayed every week in the league, it might have felt different . . .

"But the fact is we are where we are and we only have ourselves to blame. We made wrong decisions in some matches and butchered chances in others and you can't afford to do that in the Premiership. That message is getting home to the lads, but we know we will have to be patient. What we don't want to be doing is yo-yoing up and down every year either."

Aberdeen has plenty of rugby aficionados and a proud heritage in the sport. Yet it feels as if it is in transition and that the next three or four seasons could be crucial to the whole region. Corsar might be exactly the sort of tough-as-teak fellow who can steer them on to the right path to success.