Craig Hamilton eager to prove his worth at Hawick

Craig Hamilton gets after New Zealand scrum-half Piri Weepu at Murrayfield in 2005. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Craig Hamilton gets after New Zealand scrum-half Piri Weepu at Murrayfield in 2005. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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When a rugby player reaches the age of 38, as Craig Hamilton did yesterday, the boots have either long been hung up or are still being employed but on a downward march through the levels.

The former Scotland lock, however, has decided to have one more bash at, if not quite the big time, certainly the highest level of the club game after joining Hawick from Falkirk in the summer.

Hamilton enjoyed a good professional career, in which he won five Scotland caps 
and played for all three of the pro teams at one stage, first Glasgow, then Borders Reivers and finally a five-year stint at Edinburgh before he enjoyed a couple of years in France playing for Tarbes Pyrenees.

He also spent six years at Newcastle Falcons and has returned to live on Tyneside since coming back from France, driving up to train and play for Falkirk, and the move to the Borders club cuts back significantly on his travelling time.

However, it was the lure of top-flight rugby and the perfect platform to transition into coaching, as well as less road time, which convinced Hamilton to make the switch.

“I was travelling quite a distance and I’m looking to do more of a coaching development role now that I’m coming to the end of my playing career,” he said.

“I’m looking to focus a lot on that side of things. This was a good move to get to both coach and play at a high level.”

Hamilton freely admits that growing up in Stranraer and cutting his teeth with Wigtownshire, the idea that he might one day two decades on be running out at Mansfield Park in a famous green jersey, would have seemed a fanciful one.

“It’s not something I would ever have imagined back then, no,” he says with a smile. “Although in saying that there is a little Wigtownshire contingent there now, with Bruce and Keith McNeil there, I played with them at ’Shire back in the day.

“It’s good to see us flying the flag for old Wigtownshire.”

Hamilton made his Scotland debut in the second Test defeat by Australia in Sydney in 2004 and earned four further caps the following year, against Romania in Bucharest and in the autumn series of that year against Argentina and Samoa. His last appearance in the dark blue came in the 29-10 loss to the All Blacks at Murrayfield.

He was recalled for the 
2008 summer tour to 
Argentina but didn’t feature in the Tests.

Hamilton will start on the bench this afternoon when Hawick open their BT Premiership campaign at home to Currie Chieftains.

The Greens came perilously close to losing their top-flight status, fighting back to edge a promotion/relegation thriller with Edinburgh Accies 23-20 at Lasswade.

Coach Nikki Walker left at the end of the season and has been replaced by former Kelso boss Darren Cunningham.Aside from Hamilton, they have also added front-rows Matt Carryer and Nicky Little, Kelso skipper Dom Buckley and teenage back-row Guy Graham, the son of ex-Gala head coach George.

Hamilton believes that play-off success might be the spur to a better season.

“I watched the game against Accies and I was just so impressed with the boys’ resolve and spirit,” he said. “They went so many points down and the way they fought back showed a lot of character and belief. You’re never out of a game, you’ve got to fight and they certainly showed they are not lacking in that aspect. That’s what will drive us through these first few games of this season.

“The people of Hawick rallied
behind and there was a big support. The town just breathes rugby.”

While the move into coaching is firmly on his mind, Hamilton is determined to enjoy as much Premiership action in this Indian summer of his career.

“I’m looking to coach but I am looking to play,” he said. “I am just looking to get my own fitness up at the moment and get to the standard I know I can get to.

“I’d like to play as much as possible but there are good players in front of me at the moment so we’ll see. I have to prove myself.

“I think most players relish a challenge. I’ve still got that competitive edge.”