Rugby player

Born: April 4, 1975;

Died: September 10, 2017

STEVE Begley, who has died suddenly aged 42 while competing in a triathlon in Singapore, was a larger-than-life figure in Glasgow rugby for a number of years.

This Man of Kent was perhaps born out of his time. He arrived in Glasgow just as rugby was going professional, but his attitude – play as hard as you can on the field, then party even harder off it – was definitely a hold-over from the amateur days.

He was a “piano shifter” rather than a “piano player”. Not absolutely top-class, but, to borrow a phrase from comedian Charlie Williams, Steve “weren't a great player, but could stop them as were.” He was, during the 80 minutes of play, “an enforcer”, but, in the bar – he was wonderful company.

A grand-mother from Gourock was Steve and big brother Matt's passport into the Scotland Exiles system, while both were at Blackheath. David Leslie, the former Scotland captain recruited the Begley boys before another former Scotland cap – Brian Simmers – encouraged Steve, Matt and Danny Porte to come north and throw in their lot with Glasgow Accies, then Hawks. Steve was only 20, had been working with a shipping company, but, in the city he went into financial services, eventually forming his own company in partnership with another Accie, Keith Brown.

When they arrived, with their obvious English accents, the Begley brothers and Porte had to endure a lot of verbals from opponents. Matt remembers one Scottish opponent calling the trio: “A bunch of English b*****ds”. “Winning English b*****ds,” Steve corrected him.

With his Scotland Under-19 and Under-21 caps, Steve was given a Glasgow contract when the game went fully professional, his displays having impressed Kiwi coach Kevin Green. From Glasgow, he went on to play in France with Strasbourg, then Brive, where he packed down behind Scottish British and Irish Lion Tom Smith.

He then returned to Glasgow for a spell with Hawks which included being in the side which memorably beat Stade Toulouse in 1999. He scored the crucial try which guaranteed Hawks would be Scottish Champions for the first time in 2004. They also added the Scottish Cup that season. He scored another key try against Heriot's – a team which had once tried to sign him the following season, before signing off with Hawks with a third straight title in 2006. His boiler-room partnership with Gordon McKay was the stuff of Anniesland legend.

But Steve was a free spirit. He moved around a lot and also played for Old Belvedere in Dublin, with whom he won representative honours with the Scottish Exiles; for Hamilton Sea Point in South Africa and in the Middle East. Anniesland, however, either side of the hedge, was his spiritual home in rugby – where this 6ft 7in, 17 stone-plus giant was usually at the centre of the shenanigans.

He also had a short spell with Watsonians, when working in Edinburgh, after coming back from South Africa.

He was back in Scotland, with Hamilton, in 2011, playing in the Veterans Tens competition at the Melrose Sevens, while the following year saw him playing for the Wooden Spoon Society's team in matches in the Middle and Far East and South Africa.

On moving to Singapore, where he worked in financial services, with St James Place Wealth, he joined the Bucks RFC, for whom he played in their Veterans XV. He died as he lived, immersed in sport, collapsing and having to be pulled from the water during the first swimming leg of a triathlon. More than one former Accies and Hawks team mate, who was at Scotstoun last Saturday for the emotional tribute and minute's silence paid to Steve remarked: “Steve would have loved the idea he died with his budgie smugglers on.”

Steve Begley never married, but, in life, he was seldom without female company. There was one long-term partner, Maxine, who joined him in the move to Singapore, but, it was not to be and they separated.

He is survived by his parents, Frank and Jacqueline, sister Claire and brother Matt, but he will long be remembered by those rugby men whose paths he crossed in England, Scotland, Ireland, France, South Africa and Singapore. As – former Hawks president and former boiler-house compatriot Chas Afuakwah said: “One of the good guys.”