Average Scotland Backs of the Mid-2000s: Where Are They Now?

There are a generation of rugby fans nowadays who, when they think of a Scottish back, imagine Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, or Finn Russell. Player with pace, creativity and guile. Players who can create something out of nothing, with so much skill their CVs are seven pages long before they even get on to experience and qualifications. Just as there is still a generation who imagines Welsh backs as slight, nimble and skillful, rather than eight foot tall and made of granite, this shall forever be their image of Scotland outside the scrum.

I grew up watching rugby in the noughties. For me, a Scottish back is basically a human shopping trolley. Bulky, slow, and with no real ability to change direction. There’s a practical use for them, but they’re not really ideal when used on a grass field. For ten years, Scotland produced a near-infinite number of really average rugby players. Back in the day, watching the ball go wide when the Evans brothers were injured was a fascinatingly torrid affair. None of these players were bad, but they were surely not the best the country had? To be fair, it didn’t help that the best backline move their coaches could conjure seemed to be “Just hope for the best”.

So, buoyed by nostalgia for the days in which Scotland would field a team of men who were clearly destined to become chartered accountants, I decided to look into what just a small sample of average Scotland players of the past are doing now. A retrospective to discover how many of them fulfilled their destiny and now work in the financial sector…

 

Graeme Morrison

A pungently average player, Morrison won thirty-five caps in the centre for Scotland, scoring three tries, all of which probably by accident. He played a bit like a wind-up mouse, trundling forward in a straight line until he hit another object, such as a wall, shoe, or collection of small crumbs. Morrison is most notable for being the best player to never work out what the point in having a ball on the field was. The options to pass and kick were well beyond him, but he was still likely the best player on this list. The kind of player who made pundits say ‘He’s been a great servant’, Morrison was a great servant and the kind of middlingly-talented guy trying his hardest that I love seeing play at the top tier. An honest, decent bloke, who was quite lucky he played in the era of the game in which running rugby was least important.

In March, Morrison qualified as a chartered accountant. Originally educated at Dollar Academy, which is apparently not a school for scheming unloving businessmen played by Michael Douglas, he joined RBS in 2014, and was recently listed as one of the Top 35 Scottish Accountants Under 35, which is a list I vivaciously follow.

 

Phil Godman

I loved watching Phil Godman, because whenever he played well (And it did happen, it’s easy to forget), it was a bit like seeing a random bloke plucked from the stand to fill in at fly-half and playing a blinder. The only thing about Godman that said ‘professional rugby player’ was his Wikipedia page, and yet he managed to play over 200 games of professional rugby, and he played really well in a good eight or nine of them. Godman was a complete ten, right down to the knack for overthinking the game and having a psychological meltdown mid-match. Think 2012-era Rhys Priestland, if it didn’t take eighty thousand people baying for his blood to throw him off, just a passing fly shrugging at a missed tackle. Ever-endearing, if not always entertaining.

Godman is now PE teacher at a posh school in Scotland, which is probably where he should have been all of this time anyway.

 

Hugo Southwell

There are those out there who mock Chris Patterson for his workmanlike approach to fullbacking, but he was very far from a bad player. An outstanding goalkicker, very solid defender, reliable under the highball, and capable of not getting in the way on attack, he was everything Hugo Southwell was not. In fact, the reason he got so many bloody caps was probably just because the alternative was a guy who didn’t seem to understand knock-ons are a bad thing. His inability under the highball was ironic, considering Southwell hung so many pointless highballs you began to wonder whether he was being paid by the Garryowen tourist board to get the town’s name into the commentary. He played 53 times for Wasps, but had the hands of a bee and kicked about as well as one too. In fact, that probably explained his lack of potency in attack too, as he was worried if he stung a team once he would drop down dead. Whenever he was selected, too many Scotland fans didn’t seem to mind, which became evidence in a case study on collective sporting depression, if seeing Hugo bloody Southwell named in your team doesn’t make you ask questions, you’re four steps down already.

Southwell is now trying to be a professional cricketer, with the aim of becoming a duel international. This sounds bizarre, but it fits his rugby career perfectly as you’d need to wait by the pitch for five days to see Southwell do something useful anyway.

I know I billed this as average players, not bad, and Southwell probably was, but the peak of his questionable powers coincided with the period in which my dreams of one day playing pro rugby at fullback were being crushed unsympathetically, and seeing someone not-that-good that wasn’t me playing my position in the Six Nations really hurt.

 

Nick de Luca

If they gave Oscars for hitting a good angle but knocking the ball on in the process, Nick de Luca would be considered an artist on par with Daniel Day Lewis. Until the Academy sort out their shit, unfortunately the only thing de Luca has in common with Day Lewis were the initials of his surname and a penchant for only turning in a great performance every four or five years. Nick de Luca was the kind of player who would very occasionally play a blinder, force himself into the international conversation, then fall back to middling obscurity for the rest of the season.

Speaking of middling obscurity, de Luca is now an economics teacher in Uppingham, Leicestershire. He also acts as the school’s Director of Rugby, probably the only DoR position in the world with which none of Eddie O’Sullivan, Kingsley Jones and Gary Gold were linked.

 

Simon Webster

A versatile back able to play wing, fullback or centre, yet the position in which Webster was most frequently found over the course of his playing days was the recovery position. Webster was amongst the most injury-prone players to play professional rugby, spending so much of his career in hospital even Jeremy Corbyn would start to question if treating him was just a waste of tax payer’s money.

It’s hard to pin down exactly what Simon Webster is doing nowadays. Webster’s Wikipedia page claims that during his playing days, Webster “also [sold] rugby gear, including bright orange gloves”, but apparently that isn’t a thriving business now Sean Lamont has retired and he’s lost Brock James’ number. From Twitter snooping, when he isn’t retweeting posh places to eat in Edinburgh, he appears to run a property redevelopment firm. He knows a thing or two about getting back into shape over and over again, so it sounds like an excellent fit for him. I just hope he sticks to the admin work, anything where he risks any worse than a papercut and he may not make it to 40.

 

 

4 comments

As a Scotland supporter whose formative rugby-watching years were during this period I feel this article should have come with Trigger warnings. Shame on you Sir!

In fairness Webster was a good player who was unfortunate with injuries. De Luca was an enigma often brilliant for Edinburgh but poor in the dark blue of Scotland, another in the same vein would be Di Rollo, he was the opposite of De Luca, wherein he would be absolute Gash for Edinburgh but actually turn in a decent performance for Scotland.

Other Honourable Mentions
Andrew Henderson / James McLaren

It should also be noted that the names above all had to play with Godman or Parks at Fly-half “pulling” the strings so they were always going to struggle to do much with the ball they provided!!

Oh and thanks for reminding me of this dark chapter in Scottish Rugby, I have spent many pounds at the shrink (rugby club bar) trying to erase these memories and focus on the present with Scotland’s exciting back line!!

What do you reckon?