THE four years have gone by in a flash. The small matter of 1,340 days since Kylie Minogue was handed the metaphorical baton from Lulu and Don Maclean at the Glasgow 2014 closing ceremony, Team Scotland will take the plunge on the Commonwealth stage again tomorrow and it is somehow fitting that the pool will provide the most likely setting for Scots to make an early splash.

A smaller team has journeyed to the other side of the world than graced the colours in Glasgow, comprising 230 athletes and various support staff, at a total cost of £2m. Their challenge is to surpass the whopping medal haul of 28 from our last Antipodean adventure, the Melbourne games of 2006. That occasion lives long in the memory from a Scottish perspective, and not least because gold medals from Caitlin McClatchey and David Carry helped Scotland to top the medal table after day one. What a shot in the arm it would be to this Scotland team’s hopes it would be if Hannah Miley in the 400m individual medley and either Ross Murdoch or Craig Benson in the 200m breaststroke were able to do likewise this time around.

“I have still got the picture of us on top of the medal table after day one,” says Paul Bush, who 12 years ago was chef de mission for the Scottish team as well as head honcho at Scottish Swimming. “It was pretty special.”

As much as he would love a similar outcome this time around, these are vastly different days in terms of the preparation and professionalism of the wider team. Now ascended to chairman of Commonwealth Games Scotland, both he and chef de mission Jon Doig are adamant no members of the travelling contingent are here in the Gold Coast for the holiday. From travelling Police Scotland members helping to drop off athletes’ kit, to board members with full diaries and a checklist of events to attend, Bush insists that none of the travellers on these Emirates flights out to the Gold Coast is content to be a passenger.

“Jon and I were both there for those fantastic 12 days in Mellbourne,” he said. “But it is chalk and cheese now. In terms of preparation of the team, the professionalism of the team and I think the expectation of the athletes, they set their own high bar.

“Swimming was probably one of those pioneer sports in Scotland but athletics has followed suit now, bowls was always successful, boxing too,” he added. “It is the norm now, not the exception. Each one of the 17 sports comes here with really high standards. We have no passengers. And without being disrespectful, 20 years ago that probably wasn’t the case. We just need to get to Thursday now and see what happens.”

Whereas Murdoch, Miley and the rest of Scotland’s swimmers at Tollcross back in 2014 were roared to glory by a throaty Glaswegian crowd, now they face the challenge of blanking out a boisterous Aussie crowd at the steeply-banked 12,000-seater Optus Aquatics Arena. Duncan Scott, a 20-year-old with six opportunities to register a medal to go with his two Olympic silver medals and two world championship gold medals, is savouring the opportunity to swim in the lion’s den.

“I've been to a few events where Scotland aren’t the home crowd,” says Scott. “In Rio, for the 100m freestyle final there was a Brazilian in the pool and that was phenomenal - probably the loudest I’ve ever experienced. Amazing

“Same in Hungary [for the World Championships in Budapest in 2017], there was a Hungarian in lane 8 and the place erupted,” he added. “So I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully there are a couple of Aussies in my race to get the crowd going.

“And hopefully I can feed off that. In the past I have, it helps get me going. Obviously you have to control it and not get carried away by it but the place looks amazing. And I know that somewhere in there my parents will be in there and shouting for me.”

Forget about the lion’s den, Scott has had to swim amongst the sharks. One of the things keeping the swim team sane in their limited down time after those punishing three-times daily sessions is something of a card school.

“The Team Scotland environment is a lot different to the British one - we all know each other, we’ve all been racing since we were eight years old, everyone is close and the team cohesion is really good,” says Scott. “The bond is strong - until we play poker.

“That’s one of our vices in the hotel. I can’t tell you who the shark is - but its not me! No-one’s betting the house, though. You need something to keep your mind occupied in the down time.

“When we went to Perth in January I took my PS4 but not this time. It’s been really good, no-one has stayed in their rooms, and if we don’t know someone that well we’ve got to know them pretty quickly. That’s been a massage that’s been part of Team Scotland for a number of years and it’s why our relays are strong as well - we have a team mentality.”

For all the individual talent and expertise on show, the team is the star when it comes to Team Scotland, the thing that Bush is asking corporate Scotland to keep buying into. While sponsorship is now locked in until Birmingham in 2022, he is asking for private firms to provide backing for the Commonwealth Games Trust and their young people’s programmes.

“We’ve done some research with Yougov where the Scottish public see the Commonwealth Games as No1 - believe it or not, ahead of football, which might surprise you,” says Bush. “We’re so fixated as a nation with football but what we have here is really special. We’ll celebrate it for the next 12 days but I'd like to celebrate it through 365 days and the next four years ahead of Birmingham.

“We have to sustain investment,” says Bush. “If you turn off the tap, you will drop. The country we’re sitting in now, Australia, have taken their foot off the gas. They had a phenomenal Olympic Games in Sydney, but have regressed at every Olympic and Commonwealth Games since then. They’re now looking to bring in a lottery programme for sport, which is quite fascinating when you think back to John Major bringing it in in the UK all those years ago. Lottery funding was a bit of a salvation for British sport, and we have to keep investing in our governing bodies and in our youth moving forward.

“My plea is that we’ve got to have sustainable funding,” he adds. “You can’t keep turning the tap on and off. We’ve got to get that message across not just to the government, who have been really supportive in helping the team get here, as have Sportscotland and the lottery. But we really struggle with corporate Scotland, who could really help particularly with our trust and providing grants for young people to come through. It costs £2m to bring this team here, and to sustain the organisation itself it’s around £1.5m every four years. It’s an expensive business.”