Hawick RFC this week moved to fill their vacant head coaching position with the appointment of Darren Cunningham.
Cunningham, the former Antwerp, Scottish Exiles, Kelso and Jed-Forest head coach, has been appointed on a one-season, 12-month deal, replacing Nikki Walker, who announced his departure from the Mansfield Park club after a disastrous 2016-17 campaign.
“Darren was one of nine applicants who made it clear they were interested in our head coaching position and quickly made our shortlist of potential candidates,” said Hawick club president John Thorburn this week to the Hawick News. “He was one of three who impressed us in the interview process – and after discussions he was the candidate we all felt we wanted to take over from Nikki and take us forward into next season.”
Cunningham, an RFU level four qualified coach, will take charge of the Greens when Walker departs following the club’s relegation play-off – and Thorburn is confident the former Poynder and Riverside Park coach will be able to deal with the pressures and expectations that come with coaching Hawick.
“He did a lot of homework on the club, on our history, what our goals are and the level of expectations that come with the role,” continued Thorburn.
“We are confident he can continue the initiatives Nikki and the club have been undertaking in improving rugby from the grass roots, while also the dealing with how much the club means to the town.
“We were looking for someone who also understood the pressures that not only come from on the rugby field but also off it as well.”
Cunningham, meanwhile, could not hide his delight.
“I have always admired Hawick as a team and a club and can’t wait to get started working with the players, staff and committee in building on the good work that Nikki and his staff have done over the past three seasons,“ said the new head coach.
No formal announcements have been made on who will join Cunningham in the coaching set-up for next season but Thorburn admitted discussions are currently
ongoing with prospective candidates with possible appointments coming after the relegation play-off.
“There was a feeling that we needed to bring someone in before the play-offs and now that we have done that we are moving to add to the coaching group and team,” added Thorburn.
“The play-off is a big hurdle as the SRU funding the club receives is vastly different between the [BT] Premiership and National 1 so we are being careful about where we look and how much we offer, but at the same time still active in searching for additions.
“In addition, we are hoping to have the second XV back for next season after we struggled with it this season. The hope is to have it back functioning as it was two years ago, which was a really big help to Nikki and the depth of the first XV.”