Taking the captaincy of a team that won everything on offer the previous season could be viewed as a poisoned chalice but Rory Carmichael is relishing leading Heriot’s into the new club season, with tonight’s BT Charity Shield clash with Melrose at Goldenacre the curtain-raiser.
When it is jokingly put to him that the only way could be down, the 30-year-old centre breaks into a smile. “Yes I suppose there is added pressure with how well things went last season,” he said, referring to the club’s first ever league and cup double, plus the Charity Shield too.
“But as this group, with some new players, we feel we haven’t achieved anything and will be looking to repeat what last season’s squad achieved.
“The goal has to be generally the same – aim for the play-off spot and see what happens from there. The last couple of years we’ve shown we’re a good play-off team. If we can get ourselves in the mix at the end of the season we’ll back ourselves.”
Carmichael, pictured, takes the club captaincy from Jack Turley, who has moved to Fylde, and is excited about the season ahead, which will see a number of fresh faces for the champions, including forward Callum Marshall from Selkirk and stand-off Alex Hagart, who has joined from Aberdeen Grammar.
“I’m very proud,” he said of the captaincy. “I’ve been at the club for a few years now and it’s given me a lot so I’m looking forward to giving back, supported by two very able vice-captains in Michael Liness and John Semple and striving to get some more silverware for the trophy cabinet.”
Carmichael starts tonight’s game on the bench, with hooker Liness leading the team out.
Heriot’s dream season was kickstarted by last year’s Charity Shield win over Boroughmuir, which took place at BT Murrayfield ahead of the Scotland-Italy World Cup warm-up game.
Tonight it will be on their home patch, against the side they beat in the BT Cup final back in April a week before they beat Ayr at Millbrae to retain the BT Premiership.
“We’ve been lucky enough to play in the Charity Shield the last couple of years and it gives you something a bit more competitive than a usual pre-season game,” said Carmichael. “It gives you a chance to test the systems in a game with a bit more edge to it. We are massively looking forward to it.”
Carmichael believes the standard of the Premiership is on an upward curve and can’t wait for the new season to get up and running. “It’s definitely going up,” he said. “It’s attractive because some defences aren’t maybe as organised as the pro teams so there is scope for more open rugby. The standard is definitely on the up. You see year on year players from clubs winning contracts. The SRU are streaming more coverage and I think there is an audience for it.”
Robert Chrystie will take charge of Melrose for the first time after John Dalziel’s move to London Scottish, assisted by new forwards coach Stuart Johnson. Chrystie was due to name his team after training last night and said: “We have a good blend of youth and experience joining the club this season and everyone is hungry to do well, with the BT Charity Shield a great opportunity to kick-off winning ways.
“This game is still part of our pre-season but with a little added spice, which does make it a bit more real.”