Double trouble reveals Currie’s spirit

Turned down for Super6 and dealing with virus crisis, club is battling on

By Duncan Smith
Friday, 17th April 2020, 7:30 am
Currie stalwart Gregor Hunter, centre, has been praised by president Phil Thomas for his commitment to the Malleny Park club. Picture: Bruce White/SNS

This time last year Currie Chieftains were facing an uncertain future. Now so is the whole of Scottish rugby, sport and the world in general amid the coronavirus crisis.

The Malleny Park outfit based in the western suburbs of Edinburgh are a shining example of bouncebackability, however, as they responded admirably to the disappointment of failure to win a 
franchise in the new Super 6 set-up.

That came as a double blow as, not only did they feel a bit hard done by to have what they felt was a compelling application overlooked, they were hit by the fact the Scottish Rugby Union went back on an initial guidance document that stated a maximum of two clubs from one of the four recognised districts would be included.

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In the end, there were three from the capital – Watsonians, Boroughmuir (now Bears) and Heriot’s – which led to Currie’s squad being cherry-picked by local rivals as players looked to take the opportunity of a shot at part-time professional rugby.

They also lost coach Ben Cairns, who moved to Super 6 with Stirling County, and a number of medical, physio and support start staff to various other clubs.

“The club responded well in the face of adversity,” said Currie president Phil Thomas, whose club were second in the Tennent’s Premiership and still had a fighting chance of snatching the title from Marr before the season was scrapped due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We were looking at a situation where our squad was disappearing. We lost key guys like [stand-off/centre] Joe Reynolds and [full-back] Jamie Forbes to Watsonians and a few to Boroughmuir.

“But we stepped up. [Former long-serving head coach] Ally Donaldson came back to help out and Mark Cairns obviously too as head coach.”

Currie managed to weather the storm and prosper by promoting talented youth from its junior ranks.

“When we played at Marr back in late September [a 45-27 loss] we had a dozen teenagers in the starting team,” added Thomas. “It has been a challenge but to see the young guys come through our system has been a fillip for everyone.”

In the end, Currie were three points behind Marr, with the Ayrshire side having a game in hand, when the shutters came down on the season, but Thomas added: “The league was Marr’s to lose but we still felt we were in with a shout as they still had a couple of tricky games to play in the run-in.

“It was all to play for but clearly not now.”

What is to play for now, like clubs, businesses and individuals everywhere, is to plot a course for getting through what is going to be a challenging few months.

“Like any small business we are looking at six months of lost income, while still having costs to bear,” continued Thomas. “Most of our staff were either volunteers or on a freelance contract which would have ended at the end of the season. Our clubhouse manager, who holds everything together is now working part-time from home.

“But like many there are government schemes we will be applying for. The SRU has also announced a hardship scheme which we will be applying for before the end of the month. It is capped at £5,000, which will be appreciated but still leave lots of difficulties to face.

“A lot of our income stream comes from holding wedding receptions and other functions like that at the clubhouse, which are obviously on hold.

“The union itself, as we have seen from their announcements, are now facing big problems too, with a £12 million shortfall if no more Tests take place this year.”

Thomas said the club, like us all, is bracing for a potential long haul here.

“If you follow what scientific advisors are saying you can see that it seems even when we do ease out of this lockdown it looks like social distancing guidelines will have to be followed for a bit longer after that to minimise a second major outbreak of this.

“There is hope that there can be a full club season but it’s wait and see for now.”

Thomas picked out stalwarts Gregor Hunter and Fergus Scott for special praise in keeping the club driving forward to what, ithe face of adversity, turned out to be an entertaining journey for this proud and tight-knit community club, who were also aiming for a shot at reaching the Scottish Cup final with last-four meeting against Edinburgh Accies also falling victim to the premature end to the season.