Greens aim for instant return to top tier

HAWICK will open their National League campaign tomorrow at Stewart’s Melville, with their new-look team tasked by coach Phil Leck with regaining a top-flight berth after relegation last term, writes Alex Schweitzer-Thompson.

Departed trio Rory Sutherland, Michael Robertson, and ex-captain Bruce McNeil have all become distant memories for the Mansfield Park faithful as the Greens recorded a 41-17 Border League win at big-spending Kelso in their first competitive match of the season.

The Greens followed up a friendly defeat to Gala with victory at Poynder Park, and Leck would like to see his team this weekend post a similar performance to those displayed in the first two games.

“I’m happy with our preparations so far and I’d like to keep that going in the league,” he said. “I’m expecting the same two performances as we have put up in the two games so far. We’ve done pretty well and scored a lot of tries in two games, against one of the best teams in the country and against a team who has spent a lot of money.”

Leck admitted he would rather his side were contesting matches at the top level of Scottish rugby in the newly-formed Premiership. At the same time, he says, the club’s time away from the elite allows a chance to rebuild on and off the pitch. “It’s not frustrating – it’s a building process,” he said. “Now is the time to build not just for survival but to compete well in the Premiership next season, to build not just the business but the squad.”

Leck and Hawick have bitter memories of facing Stewart’s Melville, with the sides having last season shared a 10-10 draw at Mansfield Park that was later identified as a lost opportunity for the Greens to gain enough points for top tier survival.

“It was an expensive draw,” said Leck. “We’ve watched them recently, though, and seen what we need to see.”