Rugby coach Bert Grigg tells of pride at taking interim charge of Melrose
Up-and-coming rugby coach Bert Grigg has told of his pride at being put in charge of Tennent’s National League Division 1 side Melrose on an interim basis.
Duns native Grigg will turn 29 by the time he officially replaces Bruce Ruthven on Monday, January 10, that being when his predecessor takes over at part-time semi-professional team Southern Knights, also based at the Greenyards in Melrose.
“I’m young for an interim head coach,” said Grigg, being promoted after 18 months in an assistant coaching role at Melrose.
“I had to stop playing in the back row for Duns, where I was for my whole career – if you could call it a career – due to some head-knock issues.
“There were a couple of head injuries over the years. It started affecting me a little bit too much and life’s a bit too short to keep hitting your head, so I just decided to hang up the boots.
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“Myself and my partner (Alana Balmbro) realised that it just wasn’t worth continuing to risk it.
“I just stepped into taking my coaching a bit more seriously.
“Retiring from playing was a difficult decision, but I think I was lucky that obviously my job involves coaching rugby every day, so I’ve still got that rugby hit – I’m still involved in the sport – whereas I think it would have been a lot more difficult if I wasn’t involved as much.
“I suppose that’s why coaching appealed to me as much as well, the fact that I could still be involved in that sort of team environment.”
Grigg, also working as youth development officer at Duns, previously coached the Berwickshire outfit’s first team for the 2019-20 season.
Although he technically retired from playing in March 2020, this August he played half an hour for Duns in a friendly at Kelso.
“Playing in that game was all right,” Grigg said. “I was just severely unfit because I hadn’t done any running or anything beforehand, but I managed to stay out the way, which was probably the most important thing, and just not hurt myself.”
Melrose’s last scheduled league game at Dundee on Saturday, December 11, was postponed due to a frozen pitch, and their next competitive fixture isn’t until Saturday, January 8, at home to Edinburgh’s Watsonians. The Borderers currently sit seventh in the table with 39 points from 12 games.
Looking ahead to that scheduled game against the 12-team division’s basement side, Grigg added: “For us, I know it is a bit of a cliche, but the way that Melrose is we just want to be the best club that we can be, just focusing on ourselves.
“I’ve spoken to a couple of guys and they’re talking about other teams’ results playing so and so, but it’s just one of those ones where we’ve just got to focus on ourselves and our own performances.
“For us, making sure we’ve got a good home record obviously is an easy place to start and then just look to perform when we go away from home as well, just pick up what results we can when we go away.
“The squad themselves are more than capable of pushing up that league table.
"It’s a bit of a funny league. There’s not much between the whole of the top seven – it’s quite competitive – so one win for us might put us back up to second or third from that seventh position, which is a bit crazy.”
Before facing Watsonians, Melrose are due to play at local rivals Gala in their annual Waverley Cup contest on Boxing Day, with kick-off at 3pm.
As outgoing head coach Ruthven is unavailable for that one, it will give Grigg an early chance to cut his teeth.
“It will be a bit of a dry run for me,” Grigg said.
“I’m really looking forward to it and probably more looking forward to that Boxing Day experience in a Border derby.
“I’ve experienced playing Gala at Melrose and the atmosphere there was brilliant, and I’m kind of looking forward to going to Netherdale and probably being on the receiving end of a more hostile crowd, then Bruce will be head coach for the game on January 8 and then I officially take over on the 10th.”