THE man with more Glasgow appearances than anyone watched the club’s greatest moment arrive with a mixture of elation and envy on Saturday evening.
Former centre Graeme Morrison was working for BBC Scotland as Gregor Townsend’s men put Munster to the sword in Belfast and secured Scotland’s first major club trophy. In a decade-long professional career spent entirely with the Warriors, Morrison made 176 appearances, which still stands as a record.
He couldn’t contain his delight at the outcome but added: “I must admit to a few pangs of jealousy. I spent so long at Glasgow and the club means so much to me, so watching the celebrations at the end in front of all those Scottish supporters who had made the journey over, well, I would have absolutely loved to have been involved in that.
“But I am so happy for Gregor, all the coaches and the players. I was part of the team who finished bottom of the league in [2005-06] and to see what has been an epic journey to get to this stage is just fantastic.”
Morrison was forced to retire in May 2013 with a knee injury just after Glasgow had made their first play-off – losing narrowly to Leinster in Dublin. His career was at an end but he felt sure then that Glasgow were on the cusp of something special.
“It had started at the tailend of [previous coach] Sean Lineen’s time and it was all about building a culture at the club. Gregor has come in and taken that on even further.
“It was all about putting the good of the collective ahead of the individual and it was epitomised, for me, with Al Kellock’s comments after the game.
“Obviously, with it being his last game as everyone knew, he was asked about his personal feelings in that moment, but he was adamant that it wasn’t about him and spoke all about what it meant to the other guys and his family. That sums it up.”
It has been a tense fortnight for Glasgow Warriors and their supporters but Morrison has experienced even greater excitement much closer to home. His wife Sarah went into labour 30 minutes into the semi-final against Ulster and, a few hours later, daughter Ellie was safely delivered. It was in the early hours of the morning before Morrison discovered his old club had made it through to the final.
That thrilling development helped to keep things in perspective during the build-up to Saturday’s showdown but Morrison confessed to a few flutters of anxiety before the game. “I was a little nervous because, in the previous couple of weeks, the performances were not quite at the standard which I knew would be required.
“A few basic errors were starting to creep in, which was a slight worry. But, on the night, everything went according to plan. To score three tries in that first half was just phenomenal and Munster simply couldn’t cope with the pace we put on the game, with Henry Pyrgos really pinging the ball around at speed and stretching them.
“In the second half the rain came and allowed Munster to threaten to get back into the game, but Glasgow really defended like champions in that spell – the sheer desperation not to concede a try was great to see. And when their chance came they took it, with the Finn Russell try to kill the game.”
Hong Kong-born Morrison, who won 35 Scotland caps, is now training to be a chartered accountant but stays involved with rugby through media work and remains a familiar face around Scotstoun – a place the former Dollar Academy pupil has watched develop with great pride.
He said: “When I started with Glasgow we were dotted all around the city in terms of where we would play, train, go to the gym and all that. This is a real home now and there is a carnival atmosphere on matchdays. The fanbase will only grow after Saturday. I looked on Twitter after the game and it wasn’t just the normal people who tweet about the Warriors, it really seemed to have captured the imagination of Joe Public and it’s important we make the most of that. Knowing Gregor, he will already be thinking about moving things on, with progress in Europe and really earning respect on that stage a priority.
“Squad depth is key in the modern game. When I joined we had some real superstars – guys like Gordon Bulloch and Glenn Metcalfe – and I’d be pinching myself in the huddles to be in the same team. But if we lost one of those guys to injury we’d be struggling. It’s totally different now, with over 50 players used this season, and the title to show for it at the end.”