At Vets Now, we’re proud of all of our staff.
But every once in a while one of the team accomplishes something that makes us all gasp in awe and admiration.
At the weekend it was the turn of regional director Donna Kennedy, as she was inducted into Scottish Rugby’s Hall of Fame for her towering contribution to the oval ball game.
To put this into context, Donna, the winner of a record-breaking 115 international caps and an ambassador for women’s rugby nationwide, is one of just 26 people, and currently the only female, to receive this accolade.
The others include household names such as BBC commentator Bill McLaren, ex-British Lions coach Jim Telfer and former men’s team captain Gavin Hastings.
“It’s a massive honour, and I’m in illustrious company, but this award isn’t just for me, it’s for women’s rugby and women’s sport in general,” said Donna, in typically understated fashion.
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Although a long-serving member of the veterinary profession, having worked in it for almost 30 years, Donna joined Vets Now a decade ago.
She now has responsibility for more than 25 pet emergency clinics across the southern half of the UK.
Donna’s move to the Dunfermline-based emergency and critical care business came in the wake of her first attempt at retirement from international rugby after Scotland competed in their fourth successive World Cup — this time in Canada.
But the pull of the pitch was too strong, and Donna returned to competitive action in 2007 before winning her 100th cap against France in the March of that year in the final game of the Six Nations Championship.
“After that, I continued playing for another three years, and I went to my fifth World Cup in England in 2010, while working at Vets Now,” Donna recalled. “I’ve been lucky in that all of my employers have always been respectful of my rugby career.
“Anytime I needed time off I got it, and I’m thankful I didn’t have to struggle like some of the other girls. When you’re playing on the international circuit, whether it’s in World Cups, Six Nations Championships or European Championships, you need a good week to 10 days off work.
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“It’s not easy,” added Donna, who is originally from Biggar, South Lanarkshire, but now lives in Worcester. “Holding down a full-time job while training full time takes hard work and commitment. You have to make sacrifices. But that’s just what we did. The game has changed so much in terms of the infrastructure and support that’s now in place.
“When we started playing in 1993, we were all amateur players, and we had to fit training and gym work around our studies and our jobs. We even had to pay for our own jerseys
“Now four Scotland players are playing professionally in France, supported and funded by Scottish Rugby. In all honesty, my ideal job would have been being paid to play rugby, but that might have meant missing out on working for a great company like Vets Now.”
Donna, who has one child and another on the way with wife Karen, was preparing for Vets Now’s annual emergency and critical care Congress, a huge event in the veterinary calendar, when she received news about her induction into Scottish Rugby’s Hall of Fame.
“It was meant to be a surprise,” Donna smiled. “I received a call from Scottish Rugby inviting me to the Samoa game, but because Karen is heavily pregnant, I turned the invitation down as I need to be close to home just in case. It was then they said: ‘Look, we’re going to have to come clean — you’re going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame’.
“It was a shock to start with, but looking back, it’s not just recognition of my rugby career, it’s recognition of the women’s game in general. It’s a massive honour; I think it’s amazing and something I’m very proud of.”
It’s not the first time Donna’s been honoured by rugby’s governing body. Incredibly, she also has a national cup competition named after her, with the final contested at Scotland’s international home of Murrayfield. On top of that, she won World Rugby’s Women’s Personality of the Year Award in 2004.
As Donna admits herself, she is living proof there’s nothing to stop women from performing at a high level in sport while still enjoying a solid and successful career.