HAWICK may be enduring a major battle for respect back in the Premiership, but off the field the club was celebrating great times at Mansfield Park last night.
Club president Rory Bannerman launched an initiative earlier this year to uncover Hawick’s greatest XV. It was designed to excite supporters and recall some of the greats who had starred in the famous green jersey and, judging by the final unveiling, at a gala dinner in the clubrooms last night, it was a major success.
Colin Deans emerged as the skipper and among the names included in the stellar line-up are Stuart Hogg, the recent British and Irish Lions full-back, the double Lion Hugh McLeod, 1970s star Jim Renwick and Grand Slam try-scorer Tony Stanger, but there are a host of internationals and Lions caps not included.
Bannerman said: “Remarkably, for a town of 15,000 occupants, there have been nine Lions who have played for the club and that does not include the three men – the Burnet brothers, Willie and Robbie, and Alex Laing – who toured the antipodes with the first British Isles touring team in 1888.
“In truth, there could have been two or three XVs chosen that would have beaten all before them from the top 50 or so names that the selectors whittled the list down to.
“Players from championship-winning sides have been selected to grace the team alongside British Lions, brave stalwarts of the club and those who made their names playing rugby league after they left the ranks of the ‘Robbie Dyes’. There are over 400 caps between the men selected.
“The selectors’ experiences, following or playing for Hawick, span back over 80 years but even they had to rely on legends, handed down over the last century, to realise the heroics of some of the great men of Hawick who nobody now living had seen play.
“As it is, the team boast players from practically every decade of the last 100 years and is a testament not only to the great players that they were, and are, but to a club who are more proud, more followed and more successful than any other in Scottish rugby.”
Intriguingly, though named as the best Hawick openside flanker in a pack also featuring Great Britain rugby league star Dave Valentine and early 20th century stars Doug Davies and Jock Beattie, Derrick Grant was chosen as the ‘dream team’ coach. It was agreed that the former Scotland coach, and Lions player, was the top coach in the club’s 140 years of history by the panel that consisted of former players Sandy Bannerman (chairman), Kenny McCartney, Jack Hegarty and Nick Bannerman, and Alan McCredie, the local rugby historian well known as Bill McLaren’s right-hand man during his BBC commentaries.
Hogg, who missed Glasgow’s game with Zebre due to a minor injury, arrived at Mansfield Park dismissing suggestions that he might be in the ‘dream team’. After the XV was revealed, he admitted: “It’s amazing to be included. I can’t really believe it.
“I wasn’t alive to see Jim [Renwick] and many of these guys play, but I’ve grown up hearing all about them. Personally, this is a great achievement. All I wanted was to play for Hawick and Scotland, and I was fortunate that I got to play for the club in sevens and 15s for a season, starting when I was 16.
“But look around at the quality here and see how many players have gone on to play for Scotland and the Lions – this is the rugby heartland.
“Everyone’s been talking about this and I was desperate to hear how the panel decided on the team they eventually picked. It couldn’t have been easy, but it just makes it very, very special to be included.”
Bannerman added: “It has been great fun and I know the panel have had a lot of sleepless nights, and a few good ‘discussions’ shall we say, and I think the debates will rage on and on in the shops and pubs around the town.
“Everyone agrees on one thing: it’s a fantastic team, and a big point of the exercise was to raise the profile around the rugby club again and we have certainly succeeded in that.”
Hawick’s greatest ever team:
15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Wattie Sutherland, 13 Jim Renwick, 12 George Stevenson, 11 Tony Stanger, 10 Colin Telfer, 9 Harry Whitaker; 1 Hugh McLeod, 2 Colin Deans (captain), 3 Doug Davies, 4 Jock Beattie, 5 Alan Tomes, 6 Dave Valentine, 7 Derrick Grant, 8 Sean McGaughey. Replacements: 16 Norman Suddon, 17 Willie Welsh, 18 Glen Turnbull, 19 David Cranston. Coach: Derrick Grant