HARK! On Christmas Day, 1984, a star was born in the bonny Borders town of Selkirk.
And the gifts brought unto him were those of velocity, dexterity and an oval-shaped ball of which the infant grew to deliver amongst his fellow men with amazing accuracy and aplomb.
Despite gathering a huge following in his homeland, however, Selkirk speedster Fraser Harkness dreamed of travelling further afield to spread among young rugby players world wide the teachings only to be found on the Borders Sevens circuit. And to don the navy blue robes of his country, of course.
Now the almost-27-year-old has realised that dream. At the end of November, Harkness left behind Glasgow airport, and the mountains of snow surrounding it, to play for Scotland in the opening two HSBC Sevens tournaments of the season.
First of all, he travelled to Dubai where temperatures soared to almost 40 degrees centigrade. Next was South Africa where two days’ tropical rain only served as a welcome relief to the Scots.
And lo and behold, Harkness arrived back in the UK, having helped his team to a Bowl victory in the latter tournament, and having led them out in the former.
He told TheSouthern: “I have had two weeks of really hard sevens rugby which ended with us winning some silverware and, more importantly, getting four points on the board. Now I just want to keep up the momentum.”
In the Borders, Harkness is a bit of a legend. He’s a player who shoots from the hip. He is a man who loves his rugby and is a true entertainer. People love to watch him play because he’s very unpredictable and he has his own way of doing things.
With his love of cigarettes and pies, he’s been criticised for not exactly sticking to a healthy lifestyle, but here we have a man who puts his heart and soul into playing for his beloved Selkirk and has an extraordinary rugby brain and a deceptive turn of pace. And in the middle of December, Scotland sevens coach Graham Shiel gave the local legend a chance to shine on the international circuit.
“I thought I had missed the boat in terms of playing international sevens, but when I got out there and started playing I realised that I was still good enough to be playing at that level,” added Harkness. “It’s just going to take a bit of hard work on my part to keep myself up there and that’s what I intend to do,”.
Harkness has won international honours at club level for Scotland and done very well, but it’s always been sevens that he enjoys the most.
He explained: “The Borders Sevens circuit is great, there’s nothing like it.”
And while on his recent international tour he found that he wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
He said: “It’s amazing being out there and hearing clubs from all round the world speaking about Borders sevens. Even the TV commentators were doing it. There are so many youngsters playing on the Borders circuit who will come out of that and play sevens for Scotland.
“That’s one of the reasons I was selected for the current team, to bring some of my sevens experience in and help the youngsters, some of whom haven’t had any sevens experience at all.”
Having returned to his day job as a plasterer with Kenny Ruthven of St Boswells, Harkness is looking forward to spending a quiet Christmas with his wife and three-year-old daughter before preparing for the next selections for the 2010/11 World Sevens Series.
“We have a training session on January, 5 and then the team for New Zealand and America will be picked at the end of the month. I’d love to be involved again, but I know I will have to work hard on my fitness over the next few weeks to be in with a chance,” he told us.
Harkness is a rare breed. He knows that his natural talent and flair for doing things his way is not necessarily what would be required in the Scotland team.
But now as a Scottish 7s player he has been given a real opportunity to shine. Like the true star he is.