Hawick head coach Graham retires from rugby

Straight-talking Hawick head coach George Graham has retired from rugby with immediate effect.

By Ralph Mellon
Friday, 27th March 2020, 5:10 pm
George Graham, left, with former assistant Dean McCracken (archive image by Grant Kinghorn)
George Graham, left, with former assistant Dean McCracken (archive image by Grant Kinghorn)

The announcement was made last night (Thursday) by the Mansfield Park club, who thanked the 54-year-old and wished him all the best after all he had done since joining the Robbie Dyes in October 2017.

The former Scotland prop won 25 caps for his country during his playing career and was also an assistant coach of the national side in the mid-2000s.

Hawick became a transformed side under Graham’s guidance, avoiding relegation in his first season there with a superb sequence of perfomances in the second half of the Tennent’s Premiership campaign.

Before the current coronavirus crisis, which has led to a league shutdown, Hawick won 10 consecutive league games – spiced with a couple of Border League victories – to secure a play-off place, although how the campaign may be concluded is still uncertain.

In a statement, Hawick said: “The club is deeply grateful to George for the two and a half seasons spent coaching the club. He has overseen an improvement in results, personal developments and morale, with the highlights including the miraculous comeback from the drop, and the 12 Premier and Border League victories in a row this year.

“George intends to watch his sons play and we wish him well in his retirement, and look forward to welcoming him back to spectate, and for a few beers, as often as he can manage.”

Graham’s only public comment so far on his decision has been: “I feel now is the right time to retire from rugby after a 40-year career.

“I’ve had quite a few highlights as a player but none quite so satisfying as a coach. Working with the boys at Hawick has been enormously challenging but satisfying, and the fact 90 per cent of the team are born and bred in Hawick pays testament to the town.”

Graham came to prominence as a loose head prop with Stirling County in the late 1980s and early 1990s, then spent five years playing rugby league in the north of England.

He returned to rugby union with Newcastle Falcons when the game went ‘open’ in the mid-1990s and collected the first of his 25 caps against Australia at Murrayfield in November 1997, and the last against Wales in 2002.

He was part of the Scotland squad which won the Five Nations Championship in 1999, which marked the tournament’s final year before admitting Italy and becoming the Six Nations, as well as being the Scots’ last win in the competition to date.

He made his foray into coaching with Gala, before spells with the Scotland national team, Petrarca Padova in Italy, and Gala again.

Graham’s connection with Hawick came through watching Guy, the youngest of his four sons, playing for the club.

Gary, his eldest son, made his full Scotland debut against Italy last season and picked up his second cap against France.