All Black passion fuels Stew Mel’s Nick McCashin

Nick McCashin, centre, is Stew Mel's playmaker and at 29, has never played in the Premiership. Pic: Greg Macvean

Nick McCashin, centre, is Stew Mel's playmaker and at 29, has never played in the Premiership. Pic: Greg Macvean

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If Edinburgh Accies need any reminding of the passion and desire they must overcome in tomorrow’s Premiership rugby play-off at Lasswade, it comes in a throwaway remark by the Stewart’s Melville opposition’s kiwi playmaker.

Nick McCashin piloted Bay of Plenty to a 37-16 win over Auckland and filled Dan Carter’s boots when injury prevented the great man turning out for Canterbury against Tasman.

So, it seemed appropriate to ask if there was ever a time when he seriously aspired to a coveted All Black jersey; the answer was surprising – and maybe not totally tongue-in-cheek.

“Still not given up on it mate. Maybe one day. Never say never…” insisted the stand-off.

Aged 29 and happily settled in Edinburgh, McCashin admits he’ll have to get a move on and concedes with further good humour that victory over Accies would be better than a loss in the albeit forlorn hope of emulating an uncle, Terry McCashin, who toured with the All Blacks to Fiji and Japan as a hooker.

What Stew Mel are seriously looking forward to, he insisted, is measuring themselves against a Premiership team at the end of a season in which he helped transform them from one-win-from-four no-hopers at the start to second in the National League.

“There is a sprinkling of youngsters with realistic ambitions of going somewhere in rugby, but Stewart’s Melville is also a club where rugby provides release from relatively stressful jobs,” he added.

“Accies will have those type of guys as well, who will be more hardened by playing in the Premiership all season in addition to the B&I Cup.

“What we have, though, is a real spirit based on training, playing and socialising together. When the season started not too well we just got together over a few beers and sorted things out.”

The result was a 13-match unbeaten run and for McCashin tomorrow takes him to the brink of fulfilling a target.

“It was a lucky break that got me to Stew Mel a few years ago. I fractured a cheekbone and missed most of the New Zealand season so a friend recommended going abroad.

“I knew someone in Edinburgh and ended up at Stew Mel. Never made the Premiership, though, so it was one of my goals returning for this campaign.”

In between, McCashin ended up playing for Valencian side La Vila in the Amlin Trophy.

“We drew Sale Sharks and after holding out for an hour I realised we were in bother when they sent three internationalists from their subs’ bench and we countered with three part-time Spaniards!”

A seller of corporate hospitality at sporting events for the Matchpoint promoters of Champions Tennis. ironically to be staged once again at Accies home ground, McCashin also sells his rugby club well.

“The big thing we had to acquire was belief and after running Boroughmuir very close we knew we could have a good season.”

Stew Mel coach Bruce Macnaughton credits McCashin with “outstanding defence and an ability to put colleagues into space.”

However, for him the Stew Mel spirit is also summed up by Fraser Strachan, who is McCashin’s half-back partner.

“Fraser had just joined from Currie when along came Ross Samson back to the club which put him on the road to games with Newcastle, Edinburgh and London Irish,” he said.

“We didn’t know then Ross would soon be moving abroad, but I was impressed with the way Fraser said he’d stay and fight for a place.”

Accies’ well-documented problems resulted in axing their coaches, but Macnaughton feels that is an imponderable.

“It depends on the relationship that existed between the previous coaches and the players and I’m not party to that,” he said.

“The timing was a bit strange, but they will have their own reasons and we will still be underdogs. All I’m concerned about is our players enjoy what is a mini cup final.”