After a disastrous start to the 2016-17 BT Premiership season, Hawick face plenty of questions as they fight to remain amongst Scotland’s best.
When Hawick finished the 2015-16 season seventh and 11 points off the play-off places, there was every reason to be optimistic about the future of the team.
Hawick were leading the division at the midway point of the season before serious weather disruption kicked off a disastrous closing run that curtailed their play-off hopes.
The Greens bowed out of the BT Cup in the third round to eventual runners-up Melrose – a year removed from reaching the final – and bolstered an already impressive young core with stand-out players from a Hawick YM team that had just run roughshod over the entire National Reserve DivisionTwo on their way to promotion.
Hawick’s future was rosy, but after a slow start to the 2016-17 season and the ultra-competitive nature of the Premiership this season, there is no such positive sentiment now.
“When we started, top four was our goal,” says Hawick club president John Thorburn (pictured below).
“That changes and you need to move on, but top four was something we felt we could achieve. The BT Premiership is not an easy league by any means.
“It’s filled top to bottom with very talented sides and we have struggled at times to play to our standards, which is why we are in the position we are in now.
“Consistency and other factors haven’t helped but, that said, what we have shown recently has been very pleasing – and despite the position we are in everything is still in our own hands. We have two world-class coaches in Nikki (Walker) and Scott (MacLeod)with very talented players and there is no reason why we cannot close out the rest of the season positively.”
Unlike the Edinburgh or Glasgow-based sides, Hawick face the yearly prospect of losing players to clubs willing to offer more.
At the beginning of this season Lee Armstrong and Neil Renwick briefly departed for St Boswells and Kelso respectively before returning, while Sean Goodfellow and Greg Anderson joined Jed-Forest plus a number of young talents joined St. Boswells permanently.
This turnover hasn’t been the sole cause of the turbulent 2016-17 season that has the Greens teetering on relegation disaster, but it does paint a stark future for clubs such as Hawick who don’t have similar resources and cannot compete with clubs willing to break the bank.
Thorburn continues: “We’ve never been one of these teams that throws money at players, we’ve always been a club that develops our own, but the way the game has shifted to a more semi-professional nature, guys understandably want more, it’s the game now.
“We like producing our own players, it’s how we have always done it. We have a close-knit group and I feel we play better as a club when that sort of connection is there. We routinely stock the Greens with 80 per cent homegrown players with a couple of outside signings, but unfortunately that isn’t winning you much today.
“Hawick hasn’t really got much in the way of employment for young guys now with most of the bigger mills and other employers now gone, so players eventually start look to elsewhere.
“Guys will move on, that’s the nature of the beast now, so what we have to strive to do is make sure we have a stable of quality players ready to pug in.
“That, unfortunately, hasn’t been easy with four senior and two under-18 clubs in the town.
“There simply isn’t enough players to go around. Last season YM worked, but this year it hasn’t which has affected the depth of Hawick.
“The hope is to have discussions with all involved with rugby in Hawick to make sure we preserve the game in the town, organise a structure all can benefit from and maintain our long history of producing, international standard talents otherwise we might see more seasons like this year.”