Borderer Darren in a league of his own Down Under

Darren Gillespie NZ

Darren Gillespie NZ

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With just over a week to go until the beginning of the domestic season local rugby players have been involved in a variety of activities.

On the other side of the world, however, former Jed-Forest and Kelso back row man Darren Gillespie is hanging up his boots for the summer having won a premiership title in his first rugby league season.

Darren Gillespie NZ

Darren Gillespie NZ

Just five months ago Gillespie was playing at the Hong Kong Sevens for his native Scotland. But, having moved to Christchurch in search of a lifestyle change, the 26-year-old joiner was persuaded by a work colleague to switch codes.

“Rulon Nutira, who plays prop for the Hornby Panthers, said come and give it a go,” explained Gillespie.

“I’d never played it in my life, but I got hooked from there. I’ve got the bug now. They’re a great bunch of boys.”

Last weekend, the Panthers won the Canterbury Premiership title in a 22-20 extra-time grand final victory over arch-rivals Halswell, and Gillespie left Rugby Park with a winners’ medal draped around his neck, and the rugby league convert said he’d be back for another campaign in 2014 with the Panthers if his work visa is extended.

Lee Jones joins in with the youngsters

Lee Jones joins in with the youngsters

Supporting their son back home in Kelso are Elaine and Bob Gillespie along with older sister Gemma and younger brother Grant.

Mum, Elaine, told The Southern: “We were all delighted when we heard Darren’s team had won the premiership.

“We really miss him, but everyone is proud of what he is doing in New Zealand.

“He still keeps in touch with his old team-mates and still likes to follow the progress of Jed, Kelso and other Borders teams.”

Greg Laidlaw signing Autographs

Greg Laidlaw signing Autographs

While Gillespie was busy winning cups down under, Selkirk RFC were preparing for the start of their season with a warm-up fixture against Scottish champions and Cup holders Ayr at Philiphaugh.

The spectators were treated to a high-intensity contest, over four 20-minute quarters, with the visitors squeezing home by a 15-14 scoreline.

The presence of Scotland internationals Lee Jones and Greig Laidlaw, as part of the RBS Rugby Force Event, added extra excitement to the occasion.