Rory McKay wasn't exactly dancing with joy yesterday, despite picking up the Player of the Year accolade, in the Scottish Rugby Union's annual club awards ceremony at Murrayfield.

Instead, the veteran back-row forward, whose cv includes spells at Venezia in Italy, Manly in Australia and Bedford and Waterloo in England, was lamenting the way Glasgow Hawks slipped out of the Premier 1 reckoning towards the climax of the campaign.

As captain of the Anniesland-based club, McKay, 32, is still analysing what went right and, more importantly, wrong in the course of a dramatic season, where his team raced out of the blocks before Christmas, only to wind up with nothing after a series of close defeats by Currie, Hawick and the eventual champions, Melrose.

It was a deflating experience and McKay didn’t attempt to gloss over the collapse. “We are very, very disappointed; we had pole position, but, for a number of reasons, we let it slip away,” said the Aberdeen-born stalwart, who has represented his country at sevens and club international level. “Lack of match practice was a problem, where other teams in the mix, Ayr, Melrose and Currie, had games in the British & Irish Cup, while Melrose were also involved in the Border League. My personal opinion is that the weather in the winter was not conducive to the type of rugby we were trying to play. But there’s no point making excuses; we lost out badly and we need to address that issue.”

McKay was on Glasgow’s books as a professional prior to embarking on his peripatetic tour of duty, and he has always been one of the sport’s solid citizens: neither flash, nor prone to extravagant gestures, but prepared to burrow away at the coal face, excelling in the myriad chores which create possession for others.

In that light, he seemed almost bemused by winning the SRU award.

“I don’t really know what to make of it,” he said. “It’s an accumulation of points from the coaches after every game, so it’s good to be acknowledged in this way, but I would trade it for a league winners’ medal in a minute. I don’t think I was ever the stand-out player at Hawks, but I was consistent, and, even when you reach this stage of your career, there are always things you can do to improve.

“It’s nice but, when you work hard from June to the end of April, and come up short in the last few weeks, it is agony. Don’t get me wrong, I think Scottish club rugby is going from strength to strength, and the Premier 1 sides have a bigger part to play in the pro game.

“Bedford was a good example of a semi-pro club; they were community-based, had a passionate following, and were run professionally, and there is no reason why you couldn’t have the same at Ayr, at Currie, and elsewhere. It’s a bit harder for the city teams, but if you get the balance right, the supporters will come through the gates.”

As a student teacher at Jordanhill, McKay has advanced to a position where his thoughts are focused on life after rugby, but he isn’t quite ready to pack away his boots.

“As long as my wife [Nina] lets me out of the door, I’ll be there at training with Hawks and looking forward to the weekends, but it does grow harder when you have other things going on,” said McKay. “I would be like a bear with a sore head if I wasn’t involved in rugby, but a lot of the players’ wives have had babies recently and they have all been boys. So maybe this is the start of another Hawks team!”

If it is, don’t be surprised if McKay’s young son is at the heart of the action in 15 or 20 years’ time. If he boasts the same qualities and enthusiasm as his father, it should be worth checking him out.

sru awards Player of the Year can’t get over Hawks’ nosedive, writes Neil Drysdale


Premier 1 Rory McKay (Glasgow Hawks)

Premier 2 Darren Gillespie (Jed-Forest)

Premier 3 Stephen Findlay (Dalziel)


National 1 Matt Gray (Greenock Wndrs)

National 2 Lee Armstrong (Hawick YM)

National 3 Michael Borthwick (GHK)


East John Grant (Lismore)

Caledonia Christopher Mann (Glenrothes)

West Manus Flynn (Loch Lomond)


Premier 1 Kirstin Daly (Dundee University)

Premier 2 Hannah Rorrison (Melrose)

National Maggie Smith (Broughton)

Coach Dave Cockburn (Lasswade)

Referee Neil Paterson (Dundee HSFP)

Try Jamie Sole (Edinburgh Accies)

Spirit of rugby John Foster (Dollar Academy)