For his latest offering in SCRUM 115, our columnist Bruce Aitchison gave his take on three wise men from a town steeped in Scottish rugby history.
I remember hearing an after-dinner story about Gala not being able to stage a Nativity Play at Christmas due to a lack of some of the most important characters in the story… but I have found the perfect Three Wise Men, or Braw Lads. Clubland has and continues to produce great rugby people, and Gala boasts three of the finest.
Bringing the Gold, Chris Paterson is Scotland’s second most capped male player and all-time top points scorer. Some of the best players only need to be known by their nickname: Chunk, The Bear and of course, Mossy. A more humble man you will struggle to meet. A more dedicated learner and student of the game you would have struggled to find, especially in a Galashiels Academy lunch time when he could be found on the pitch, kicking at goal and out of hand.
He was determined and brave and anyone who met him knew he deserved everything he achieved in the game. Even in retirement, he is versatile, engaging and continues to shine, but without seeking ‘fame’. He is a knowledgeable pundit and summariser; he is respected, and you know he is honest.
If you get there early enough, you’ll see him pre-game on the touchline, with a smile and that trademark chuckle for both his TV team-mates and the fans who are keen for a word. Then comes the frown as he gets serious with his analysis, the voice deepens like he’s about to ask if you are sitting comfortably.
He is a phenomenal role model and its no surprise he spends so much time working with players on their skills, often filling in to run as the opposition at Scotstoun, Oriam or BT Murrayfield as he is as annoyingly fit now as he’s ever been. He takes huge pride in his roots and shows that its not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, meaning he gives hope to the wee guys who love ball in hand.
Before Mossy and bringing the Frankincense, came another with a nickname, Toony. There is no one in the world game with the experience of Gregor. He played all the way through the age groups, he played amateur club rugby in Scotland and Australia, he played professionally in Scotland, England, France and South Africa, played for Scotland at 7s and 15s, the Barbarians and the French Barbarians, was not only a Lions Test starter (when Scotland players were allowed to play in the Lions Tests) but also a series winner in 1997.
He was a player/coach, then an assistant; he has been a winning club coach and is now an international Head Coach. He has seen a lot and learned even more. Like Mossy, he is humble, recognises the importance of his roots and the experiences that have shaped his mindset and skills. He even has a pass named after him! Forget Big Bill & Sonny Bill, the ‘Toony Flip’ carved up in Paris when we could win away from home!
He’s got a degree and wrote his autobiography! Another who has earned everything he has achieved and is respected near and far because of it. He can deliver a story at a rugby dinner too; ask him about the changing room after winning the Calcutta Cup at BT Murrayfield!… #INTOONYWETRUST
Who brings the Myrrh? He was never capped. Our third Wise Man is the oldest of my three, and is not only a force with our egg, but he’s transforming Grid Iron too! Richie Gray (not Jonny’s brother) is a larger than life character with wit sharper than Darcy Graham’s change of direction (token Hawick reference…). Richie Gray is changing the game.
He has imagined and designed the tackle bags used by every club throughout this Egg Shaped World. His scrummage machines are used for technique and torture in equal measure, and he will no doubt have his eye on balls and posts and anything else he thinks can improve.
He is making the modern player efficient and effective at the breakdown, both in defence and attack; he is improving technique, and he continues to challenge himself to create equipment and practices to help players, coaches, and teams make marginal gains to improve their performance. He’s as big in Gala as he is in Montpellier and Miami, and he can talk – oh boy can he talk – and he’s funny too!
All three are from rugby families and a rugby town where maroon is the colour. All three are rugby men. All three know… happiness is egg shaped.