I love Club Rugby. Its not perfect, but its close, and love means more than seeing and dwelling on the imperfections.
I grew up in the Scottish Borders and didn’t find rugby until age 11 when I went to Galashiels Academy. I love the banner at Munster games – IRISH BY BIRTH, MUNSTER BY THE GRACE OF GOD. That’s how I feel about my luck of growing up where I did and going where I went. I was a footballer but embraced rugby too. I was inspired by my teachers Bill Noble, Rob Moffat and Davie Wright, by the kids around me from rugby dynasties of the town and those like me, just starting out and by the history that had gone before me.
Chris Paterson was the year above me at school. ‘Mossy’ was and still is a great guy, very down to earth and very funny. He loved rugby. Every lunch time he could be found out on the school pitches kicking goals or punting, refining his technique and clocking up those 10000 hours of practice. Although he was small, he was committed, very quick, determined and skilful. His size was always brought up, but to those close to him, it was no surprise when he ‘made it’. There is a place and value for everyone in our game, big or small. Gregor Townsend wasn’t long out of school either and he was a hero and example to all.
We can’t all be Gregor Townsend or Chris Paterson. But we can all gain a huge amount from being involved in this great game of ours.
I loved it from the start and my passion has only grown since then. And club rugby gives you endless opportunities and the chance to build relationships that are meaningful and lasting.
I played rugby with my best mate in the world. I was his best man in New Zealand and although he’s on the other side of the world, working in rugby, we are still best mates. We met, had stuff to do and things to talk about, because of rugby. We dressed as Japanese School Girls for a club social, we got into trouble in the Philippines, mischief in Hong Kong and nonsense in Scotland. New Zealand is next on the list.
I’ve played with players from all over the world, the chance to learn from them is immeasurable. I’ve been welcomed into their homes and have tried to reciprocate as often as possible. Playing club rugby in America should be on the bucket list of every player. Their passion for the game is infectious, they love to hear stories, they love to watch and learn but most of all, they play for fun. They want to enjoy the experience and part of that is what happens off the pitch. When you get to know people, you get to share experiences and you make memories that the older you get, the better they become when you retell them! I look forward to welcoming my friend from the USA this Autumn to join me at Murrayfield for the visit of South Africa.
I feel very grateful.
I coached a club with my Fijian mate, Rupeni. He’s back in Fiji and I hope to visit him one day. A trip to Fiji for a rugby lover is another for the bucket list, Ben Ryan would agree. After storm Winston, along with members of the club rugby community in Edinburgh, I helped Rups to raise funds to rebuild a school in Fiji. That summer the Fijian 7s team won the Gold Medal at the Rio Olympics.
The Army have barracks in Edinburgh and there are many Fijian soldiers and families based there. I know many of the community and love to greet them with a handshake and an embrace and to see their ear to ear smile. They were having a reception to congratulate Bill Mata and Leone Nakarawa on their success. I was invited and had one of the most memorable nights of my life and I am very grateful to have been part of such a special occasion. Sharing Kava, hearing the hymns, seeing the joy the gathering brought, eating the food, being part of the community for a small time was an unbelievable experience.
I have Club Rugby and mates to thank for it. I’m not sure it is possible in any other sport.
But most of all, it’s a place to be. It’s like going to Cheers, everybody knows your name. You feel safe. You are part of something that was there before you and will be there when you’ve gone. It’s a difficult thing to describe to those who haven’t been part of it. I encourage clubs to make their clubhouse open and ensure anyone who enters is made to feel welcome.
The social relationships built in that setting are long lasting. The support you can get to either take your mind off some struggles or a place to share those troubles is priceless. There is usually a story teller to entertain you or a new joke to giggle at. There is the offer of a meet up in future or a chance to reminisce on the past. There is a contact to help get your car fixed or someone to find you a new mortgage, a place to crash or the inside knowledge on tickets for the big game.
It’s a place to be. Its family friendly. There shouldn’t be a hierarchy, it should be rugby folk enjoying the company of others. And sometimes, there’s even a game of rugby.
Happiness is Egg Shaped