Melrose paid tribute to their very own Olympic silver medal winner Mark Robertson at a special event at The Greenyards at the weekend.
The 31-year-old, who made a great impact for Team GB men’s sevens team off the bench last month as they finished runners-up to Fiji in the final in Rio, was nurtured at the Borders club.
In an emotional speech in front a sold-out lunch in his honour in the clubhouse on Saturday he revealed how a discussion at the Melrose Sevens when he was a teenager helped turn his career around.
Speaking to club members and guests ahead of Melrose’s BT Premiership match with Currie, Robertson said: “Growing up, all I wanted to do was play for Melrose and run out on The Greenyards pitch.
“However, at the age of 19 I was standing on the touchline at the Melrose Sevens having a few drinks and a laugh with my friends and Stuart Henderson, the then secretary of the club who has since sadly passed away and was a very respected character, came up to me.
“He asked me why I wasn’t out there playing and told me that I had the talent to get into the Melrose squad and do well in rugby if I knuckled down and worked hard. That was the sort of advice I needed at the time and it was definitely a turning point for me.
“I worked so hard over the next year and I remember making my debut for the first XV alongside players like Craig Chalmers against Glasgow Hawks – that was a huge moment for me.
“Playing out there on The Greenyards on many occasions after that is something I will never forget.
“In the 2005 Melrose Sevens we got to the final and were 24-0 up and somehow went on to lose 38-24 to Stellenbosch.
“For me, that was one of the worst games I’d ever played because we felt like we had let everyone down. However, later on I looked at my runners-up medal [and] I was proud of myself and how far I had come since Stuart had had that chat with me. I was then in a great place to take my career forward and in the last decade or so hard work and a belief in my own abilities has got me to where I am.
“To be back in Melrose with an Olympic silver medal means the world to me and I would like to thank all of the local people who have helped me on my journey.”
Robertson, who donated one of his Team GB strips to Melrose, also paid tribute to his Team GB team-mates and the work they put in over a short period of time to make sure they were up to speed to compete at such a big event.
“A lot of folk doubted whether the squad could come together so quickly and gel before the Olympics because some of the other squads had had four years together to prepare,” he explained.
“However, because there were 27 guys fighting it out in the wider group for just 12 spots you felt like you were on trial every day in the lead-up to selection and that just pushed us to hit the heights.
“It was a special sort of British and Irish Lions atmosphere if you like and I have made friends for life with the other 26 guys from the extended squad, not just the guys that made it to Rio because we have a special bond.
“You could say it has been a pretty good summer for me overall! Winning Scotland’s first ever World Series event down at Twickenham was amazing back in May and then to go to Rio was the icing on the cake.”
Robertson hopes to inspire more local youngsters to take up rugby and play sevens.
He said: “I think if kids can see that guys like me are just like them and come from the same place then it makes achieving great things more tangible. Through the School of Sevens that I have set up with [Scotland Sevens captain] Scott Wight we want to get more youngsters from all different backgrounds playing sevens in the coming years.”