SOME of the biggest names in Borders rugby have been paying tribute to Galashiels-born record breaking rugby internationalist Chris Paterson who announced his retirement from international rugby yesterday, writes Fiona Scott.
In a 12-year international career, Paterson broke just about every record and became the most capped Scotsman in the history of the game. His size eight-and-a-half right boot was the most consistently prolific weapon in Scotland’s arsenal for a decade.
Yet for a man who was 12-and-a-half stone, his ability to excel against the 6ft 5in, 18st monsters who now regularly appear in back divisions, was a source of equal pleasure.
Rob Moffat, Paterson’s coach from his school days at Galashiels Academy, through to age-grade international and pro-team level, said: “For me, the biggest accolade I could give Chris is to commend his relentless determination to improve his game.
“At times over the last two to three years he has played the best rugby of his career. He’s worked very, very hard and young people have to realise that, if it ever was the case, the days you could rely on natural ability alone have long since gone.”
Fellow Borderer and Scotland attack coach, Gregor Townsend, added: “When I think of Chris, the words professionalism, competitor and humility are closely linked to how he has conducted himself over his illustrious career. I’d also add inspirational – as I can only imagine the many thousands of kids who have taken up the game in Scotland thanks to his exploits on the field and his exemplary demeanour off it.”
Paterson, who turns 34 in March, will continue to play for Edinburgh Rugby for the remainder of his contract, which concludes at the end of the season, although he does have an option to extend for one year. And speaking on his retiral from the international scene yesterday, he explained: “I’ve always said I wanted to bow out at the highest level of the game, while I still had the ability to go on. Since coming back from my fourth Rugby World Cup I’ve had a while to think about it and I believe now is the right time to make my decision.
“My biggest fear would be devaluing what I have achieved and devaluing the jersey. You have to stop at some point and this is the right time for me.”
Mossy first toured with Scottish Schools in 1996 and he was well on the way to qualifying as a PE teacher when he became a rugby pro.
His career, then, has been played out in the full glare of celebrity where the labels “star” and “hero” are liberally proffered and might turn many a player’s head.
He explained: “That’s just not me. At my first club, Gala, if you played well, you got a pat on the back, if not, you were soon told about it. So for me it’s always been important to deliver for my family and friends and for the supporters.”
And in typically unselfish fashion, Paterson bowed out by paying tribute to others.
“I have to thank everybody who helped me along the way,” he added. From Gary Parker and Gary Callander, my first coaches at Gala, to all those at professional and representative level.
“The absolute stand-out has been Rob Moffat. He helped me through school and in my professional career, and he was always on the end of a phone, an absolute inspiration.”
z Back in the Borders, Paterson’s former club won’t be pulling any punches on Boxing Day in their RBS Cup/Border League clash at The Greenyards.
Gala now head up both tables following their convincing 56-10 victory over Jed-Forest last weekend, while Melrose are still playing catch-up due to British and Irish Cup commitments.
But, in what could be a deciding fixture in both competitions, the two teams will be going all out for a bonus-point win.
Gala are leaving nothing to chance and have a training session on Christmas Eve to look forward to this week.
Prop Luke Pettie commented: “It’s a huge game for us and we just want to get out there and play them.”
Melrose president John Reed added: “The result will be vital for both clubs’ future in these competitions and a big home support will be very welcome to encourage the boys.”
Over at Mansfield Park Hawick and Jed-Forest are set to lock horns and, although neither team are likely to make an impact on the cup competition, there is still a place up for grabs at the top of the Border League Pool B table.
Jed currently head the field on points difference, but a win for Hawick on Monday would send them to the top with every chance still of making it to the final.