By popular acclaim, he was destined to be a Scottish rugby superstar. What transpired was more a shooting star.
Watching stand off Rory Hutton run the show for a Hawick side able to claim Edinburgh Accies’ unbeaten Premiership record with something to spare at Raeburn Place last Saturday brought memories flooding back.
Primarily, the thought was of one that got away so far as the Capital’s professional team was concerned and, to this day, the No. 10 jersey has never really been satisfactorily filled with all due respect to current incumbents.
For a handle on Hutton’s potential it is necessary to go back almost four years to when the Murrayfield academy system prospect was picked for a competitive debut against a Cardiff side brimming with Lions past and future. Think Leigh Halfpenny, Martyn Williams and Jamie Roberts, not forgetting other luminaries such as Andy Powell, Casey Laulala and Ceri Sweeney.
After playing his way in, Hutton suddenly cut loose and the official Magners League (as then) match report stated: “Rookie fly-half Rory Hutton had a dream debut, setting up the opening try for Edinburgh which proved to be the turning point.
“The 22-year-old got scrappy ball on the 10-metre line and with a jink and outrageous dummy broke through the defence.
“He was hauled down just short of the line but Ross Rennie took the scoring pass to claim a long-awaited try for the Scottish side.”
So, we waited on Hutton to be bolted into the system but not a single pro appearance followed. Instead of a contract, Hutton received his P45.
It remains one of the great mysteries even by Murrayfield standards and one leading critic said so under a headline: “Curious Case of Rory Hutton underlines the Scottish Rugby Union’s continuing failure to give young players the best chance of developing their talent.”
Another wrote: “Edinburgh haven’t had a proper fly half in years. The number ten position has been Edinburgh’s biggest problem since the game went professional two decades ago ..”
Amidst suggestions that Hutton’s kicking game wasn’t up to scratch and, to be fair, it had to be a work in progress, a youngster of rich promise was allowed to disappear off the radar.
In fact, Hutton went to Australia, as he recalled after running Accies ragged.
“Maybe I believed too much hype which said I was going to get a contract,” said Rory, adding: “What I do know was that missing out with Edinburgh was a blow and for a while it cost me my love of rugby.
“It’s funny though – how rugby can take you places.
“I was playing at Heriot’s and a team-mate, Jonny Alston, had been in Australia.
“Jonny arranged for the Palmyra club in Perth to take me on board and I enjoyed the firm grounds playing alongside James Stannard who’s had a good career with the Western Force Super 15 team. When Hawick asked if I was planning to return I packed my bags – I enjoy proving people wrong – and, with the club back in the Premiership and much more professionally structured, there is every reason to be enjoying rugby again.
“Last weekend’s win probably came down to what it meant to play for the club, the town.
“We really wanted it and there is a lot of satisfaction to be gained from being part of that.”
A qualified tradesman who has just launched his own ‘Rory Hutton Electrical’ company, the former Scotland under-18 and under-20 cap speaks fondly of the club rugby scene and there is only disappointment, not bitterness, regarding his pro sojourn. Certainly, Hutton could be tempted to throw his hat into the ring again if those in power could be persuaded to believe in late developers.
“Playing for Scotland has always been an ambition of mine and it is still an aim even if rugby is not quite the be-all-and-end-all any more,” he said.
Writing of his then Heriot’s colleague’s pro debut, Alan Dymock told the Scottish Rugby Blog:
“When Rory played against Cardiff rugby viewers in the Celtic regions sat up and took notice. It was his feint and dart that made spectators catch their breath. Twice he unlocked the Cardiff defence and made seasoned pros and British Lions follow imaginary passes.
“Is he ready for a pro contract? Most likely. Is he going to be the answer to Scotland’s problems at 10? We will have to wait and see . .”
It would appear the answer is ‘no’ but as Hutton says rugby has always had a habit of taking you in strange directions.
If he were to get another chance there would surely be nobody more deserving.