Hawick rugby chiefs disappointed to see Super6 survive axe vote

Hawick rugby chief Neil Hamilton has told of his disappointment at seeing a call for Scottish rugby’s semi-professional Fosroc Super6 league to be scrapped being rejected against the wishes of scores of the nation’s club sides.

Wednesday, 6th October 2021, 8:54 am
Updated Wednesday, 6th October 2021, 8:54 am
Hawick Rugby Club president Neil Hamilton, right, presenting Melrose skipper David Colvine with the Greens' sevens winners' cup in August (Photo: Bill McBurnie)

Hawick and several rivals had wanted to see the Super6, launched in 2019, scrapped and replaced by the reintroduction of the sport’s old inter-district championship next year, and the Mansfield Park club seconded a motion to that effect put to this year’s Scottish Rugby Union annual general meeting by Glasgow Hutchesons’ Aloysians.

At that meeting, held at Murrayfield in Edinburgh, the sport’s governing body instead got an amended version of that proposal passed by 72 votes to 46 allowing for both the retention of the Super6 and the addition of a new inter-district championship.

“Hawick wanted to have the Super6 disbanded and the money that was invested in the Super6 going towards strengthening the club game throughout Scotland,” club president Hamilton, one of those speaking out in favour of the original motion at the AGM, told the Southern Reporter.

Andrew Mitchell on the ball for Southern Knights against Heriot's (Photo: Bill McBurnie)

“The better players could be picked at the end of the season to form a district tournament.

“The Super6 is at six centres and a closed league never works. The league we want is one where you can go up and down the divisions.

“If it’s handled properly, the better players can still have two or three months of intense strength and conditioning to develop their careers and they can still be full-time professionals.

“We’re all for increasing the player base for the professional game. We need to keep up with other nations because the rest of the countries are getting stronger, so Scotland have to try different routes. We are not stupid, that has to be the way forward.

“We are a wee bit disappointed the amended motion has gone through, but it’s not unexpected because the SRU holds sway in this and they have the funds. A lot of their council voted for it, so our hands were slightly tied, to be honest.

“We’re not having a go at the SRU. We just want a shift in format. We respect the governance of the SRU as they have a job to do.”

An SRU spokesperson said: “Delegates voted in favour of an amendment from the Scottish Rugby council and board by 72 votes to 46 after a motion was presented by GHA with regards to the Fosroc Super6 competition and an inter-district championship.

“The amended motion agreed was that a modernised version of the Scottish inter-district championship, with the inclusion of a potential Scottish exiles squad, be reinstated for senior men’s rugby at levels below Super6, to commence no later than season 2023-24 but subject always to the rugby development department, in conjunction with the Scottish Rugby council, or any successor to it, having first conducted a detailed consultation with members and players on whether an inter-district championship should be reinstated and, if sufficiently supported, the format and timing of such a competition.

“That consultation process should, if practicable, be completed by no later than January 31, 2022, and the outcomes published.”

If given the go-ahead, that revived inter-district championship would see Hawick players turning out for the South of Scotland team as well as playing for the Greens’ first XV in the Tennent’s Premiership.

Hamilton added: "We are all for the district competition because it gives the amateur players an incentive to play at a higher level, which is what we’re all wanting, so we thank the SRU for giving us that avenue.

“The tournament will kick in at the end of the season for the boys that have played well in the Premiership throughout the season, the best amateur players in Scotland.

“It will be two months at the end of the season. You’re talking about six fixtures if it kicks in.

“Hopefully, it will be a wee shop window for those players to climb up the ladder as scouts for the semi-pro teams will be watching.

“We also have a close relationship with the five or six Hawick boys that have moved to the semi-professional ranks, so it’s a system we like, although we’d like a few tweaks here and there.”

The Southern Knights, based in Melrose, are the Borders’ sole representatives in Super6, along with Ayrshire Bulls, Stirling County and Edinburgh’s Boroughmuir Bears, Heriot’s and Watsonians.

GHA’s original motion that a modernised version of the old inter-district championship, potentially featuring an exiles squad, be introduced in the 2022-23 season, read: “Resources currently directed by Scottish Rugby from the domestic rugby budget towards the Super6 tournament should be reallocated to support the Scottish inter-district championship and club rugby in order to support the player development pathway.

“The inter-district championship represents a better model because Super6 is aligned to six member clubs and creates a glass ceiling for clubs outside those six as there is no promotion or relegation into Super6.

“This creates a monopoly within a selected tier of the domestic clubs. This undermines the pyramid structure and prevents fair competition. This poses a risk to the long-term growth of the domestic game.”

The Southern Knights begged to differ, however, with a spokesperson saying: “Our support for the squad and the Super6 tournament is unwavering.

“We are fully committed to the franchise and are excited by the potential for progression of young rugby talent.

“The pathway of players is clear to see, with Mak Wilson going to Harlequins, Harri Morris to Edinburgh, and Rory Darge to Glasgow, to name a few.

“We can see huge potential in the competition and we are sure, through time, the standard both on and off the field will be something young aspiring players will want to be a part of.”