Two Gala RFC players are hoping to make their full Scotland Rugby League debuts on Friday night in front of their home fans at Netherdale.
Winger Craig Robertson and young half-back Lewis Clarke are both in the 19-man Scotland squad for the European Championship clash with Ireland at Netherdale as the Bravehearts look to bounce back from defeat in Wales last weekend.
“I can’t wait for the game, hopefully I can make my debut and get my first cap out there,” says Robertson, who has represented his country at union Sevens and played for Scotland Club sides in both codes.
“It’s going to be something else if that happens. It’s good to be playing in the Borders when you have local boys playing, and there’s going to be more interest. All the boys at Gala are asking about it.”
Robertson was in training camp last week but struggled with a knee injury which he is hoping to overcome to make the cut for the matchday 17 from the official squad of 19 announced today.
Fellow Gala star Craig Borthwick, who has already won one Scotland RL cap three years ago, was in the initial squad for the tournament but had to pull out through injury. With Clarke also emerging, Friday night could be the catalyst for a league club to start in the Borders.
“I said to the local press recently that if we can get more interest, then I don’t see why we can’t get a Borders team on the go,” claims Robertson, who has to travel to Edinburgh Eagles to get a taste of league, as do Clarke and Borthwick.
“My Gala mates came across to watch the Club XIII game against the Army in the Borders and they said it was unbelievable how good it was, they enjoyed the hits.
“If we got into the Borders, there is an awful lot of talent that hasn’t been picked up by the SRU, it’s such an area that can be built on. You get really hard boys down there, so if they can get into League during the off season, it’s going to be a really good outfit and would be a really positive move for Scottish Rugby League.
“In the past, Borders boys who never made in union went down to Cumbria, to the likes of Workington and Carlisle, and started playing league down there. But if they get a sniff of glory and playing for Scotland, to be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if you see more domestic players in future tournaments, or even the World Cup.”
Former Newcastle Falcons junior Robertson, who spent most of last year out with a shoulder injury, got into league via Borthwick and finds it suits his free-running open style.
“It’s such a different game, it’s a feel-good game compared to union where there’s a lot more stopping and starting, and keeps you on your toes - although at times it’s a bit too physical for my liking! League suits my game, speed, fitness and strength, and there are so many opportunities.”
Half-back Clarke, an apprentice lineman for Scottish Power in Galashiels, has progressed through the Scotland RL ranks from Under-18s to Under-19s to the Club XIII and now the full squad. He just missed the cut in Wrexham but is one of three uncapped players in the squad – along with Robertson, and Under-19 team-mate Shane Toal.
Kick off at Netherdale is 7.30pm and tickets are available on the night or in advance via www.scotlandrl.com priced at £10 for adults, £5 concessions with family deals also on offer.
Click here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/scotland-v-ireland-tickets-18069794241
Scotland squad: Danny Addy (Bradford Bulls), Danny Brough (Huddersfield Giants), Harvey Burnett (unattached), Lewis Clarke (Edinburgh Eagles), Sonny Esslemont (Hull KR), Dale Ferguson (Bradford Bulls), Richard Harris (Warrington Wolves), Ben Hellewell (London Broncos), Liam Hood (Salford Red Devils), Ben Kavanagh (Widnes Vikings), Corbyn Kilday (Central Queensland Capras), Joe McClean (Gloucs All Golds), Scott Plumridge (Edinburgh Eagles), Craig Robertson (Edinburgh Eagles), David Scott (Doncaster), Shane Toal (Barrow Raiders), Oscar Thomas (London Broncos), Alex Walker (London Broncos), Johnny Walker (Leigh Centurions).