More than a decade after taking Scottish rugby’s top flight by storm, the evergreen Matt Morrell will be looking to strengthen his case for a return by helping Stewart’s/Melville win at his old club Watsonians tomorrow and book a play-off opportunity.
The 33-year-old, originally from Penicuik, was still finding his way at club level when he romped in for a treble as Boroughmuir demolished Melrose 54-18 at the Greenyards in 2003.
And the hat-tricks have kept on coming, with his most recent arriving last month for Stew/Mel against Hillhead/Jordanhill.
“I’ve absolutely no intention of retiring until the moment I stop enjoying my rugby,” said Morrell. “Either that or until my dad, who watches nearly every one of my games, tells me I’ve lost my ability – as I’ve asked him to do!”
On the evidence of Stew/Mel’s current 13-match unbeaten league run, there is plenty of fuel left in the tank, and Morrell happily reveals the secret of his Indian summer.
“I feel that at my age, and having been around a few clubs, I have absolutely nothing to lose when I go out and give it a go every Saturday,” he explains.
“There are plenty of young lads out there keen for contracts and so on.
“Although I have no ambitions like that as I’m happy to build up my security company – called “Safe, Simple and Secure” – I do believe I can still compete successfully against the best of these up-and-coming younger players.”
Part of it is down to completely fresh surroundings at Inverleith.
“When I started out at Penicuik, who are my dad’s old club, I wasn’t sure I could make it at a higher level until the late Bruce Hay (ex-Scotland and Lions) invited me along to Boroughmuir,” said Morrell, whose early colleagues at Boroughmuir included a young Chris Cusiter making his way into the pro scene.
“After a few seasons at ’Muir I moved over to Watsonians before a colleague, Stuart McAllister, said he was going to try to help Falkirk climb a few divisions and asked if I would come along.
“I helped Falkirk gain a series of promotions and also won a Shield at Murrayfield but when a lot of friends, including the player/coach Bob Wylie, retired I decided on another challenge. Key to joining Stew/Mel was the fact I knew absolutely nobody and I had to prove myself.
“What I found was a club with a brilliant feeder system but where everybody, including the coaches, have their feet firmly on the ground. I feel I am playing some of my best rugby having learned to think for myself more.
“For example, I got sucked into thinking I had to bulk up to play successfully but now I’ve dropped a bit of weight and focus on my speed.
“It’s a mental thing and coming to terms with doing what suits my game best is maybe why I seem to be playing okay.”
Stew/Mel go into action tomorrow with a four-point advantage over Watsonians, who have the superior scoring differential.
A win, therefore, could be enough for Watsonians to go into the winner-takes-all showdown against the second bottom Premiership outfit, although not if Stew/Mel get within a single score or notch four tries themselves. Watsonians have captain Ben Di Rollo back after missing the win at GHA last time with Scott McKean moving to the wing.
In the forwards, Clarke Smith is set to start at second row.
In the Premiership, a home victory over Stirling County could be crucial to Edinburgh Accies avoiding being dragged into the April 5 play-off.
Accies welcome back Phil Cringle, Ruairidh Young and Jamie Farndale while Alex Black is fit to resume at scrum half. Accies coach Jonny Else says: “We take on a physical and confrontational Stirling County side knowing that we are both in the same situation, where only a win will do”
Aleki Lutui, Alex Toolis, Alex Allan and Hamish Watson are released to Accies by Edinburgh.
Elsewhere, Heriot’s coach Phil Smith has reminded his side they are playing for RBS Cup semi-final places when they visit Hawick, the only team they have yet to beat this season. Harry Boisseau is back for Heriot’s and his return is timely, with centre Cammy Ferguson unavailable.