Frank Hadden's Speach
I coached here for 17 years before spending 12 years in pro rugby. This is where I learned to coach.
When I first approached the SRU with the Conference concept I wanted more competitive rugby for our better schools and clubs, and to encourage state schools to try to emulate the wonderful rugby culture you have here and more especially the exceptional development process that you probably take for granted….
Too often we have been guilty of trying to copy the likes of New Zealand or England but that just isn’t appropriate. This is a bespoke competition designed to suit the needs of our country.
I wouldn’t be here today if your Headmaster Andrew Hunter and Director of Rugby, Rob Moffatt didn’t give us the support we needed to introduce something different. The leadership they showed was essential on getting this off the ground.
More importantly I wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t done something truly special. The quirky scoring system is designed to reflect a balance between the importance of participation and performance and in theory this should favour the bigger day schools and bigger talent pools. Winning this competition once is remarkable for a School of this size, but to win 2 years in a row is a huge tribute to the efforts of all involved, both in training and in games. The quality of the coaching going on from Roddy Deans and his team is clear for all to see, as is the remarkable team spirit you show when you play for the School and your teammates.
There are now 36 Schools and Club Conferences and you have finished right at the top of the pile. As they say “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog!”
It’s only when you leave that you will realise just how strong the camaraderie actually is here. My 2 sons both played in Cup winning teams. They are now in their 30s and their best friends today are still the guys they played with in those teams.
I was down visiting one of them in London last weekend and we went to watch a couple of Merchistonians, David Cherry and Patrick Kelly, playing for London Scottish, when I was reminded of Ian Laughland, a Merchistonian who played 31 times for Scotland out of the London Scottish Club, who was President of the SRU in 2003. He told me that he had driven up to Edinburgh for a meeting and with some spare time decided to visit his old School for the first time since leaving. He parked out front and wondering what to do, decided to walk out to the 1XV pitch. When he got there, the hair suddenly came up on the back of his neck and he realised he couldn’t actually step on the pitch. He said that despite all his International Caps the surge of emotion that hit him as all the wonderful memories came flooding back almost knocked him over and he had to beat a hasty retreat to sit down.
I am very proud of what you have achieved. Many congratulations once again.