YOU can’t teach an old dog new tricks – but why would you want to when the canine in question has proven his worth time-and-again, year-after-year, and is continuing to stubbornly resist the debilitating effect of age?
There is no great mystery about what Ross Weston brings to the party, but that doesn’t make him any less effective. He leads by example. His powerful direct running with the ball in hand is a valuable source of forward momentum for his side. His bulk and core strength provides serious ballast to any contact situation. His reading of the game, decision making and work-rate has ensured that he has consistently been one of the league’s most influential operators over the past twelve years, since moving to Currie from his native Haddington for the 2005-6 season.
He is the Scotland club international team’s most capped player with 12 appearances between 2008 and 2015.
At 33 years of age he is perhaps in the twilight of his career, but his enthusiasm is undiminished. Weston’s experience and resilience – alongside that of fellow veterans Richard Snedden [scrum-half] and John Cox [prop] – provides a vital counter-balance to the youthful spirit of unrestrained adventure being provided by some of the newer faces in the squad.
“Sneds started the season before me and Coxy was the season after, so we are the three old men. I’d like to say the three wise men but I don’t think that’s true,” said Weston, before insisting that he doesn’t feel any added pressure about being captain of a team which has regularly featured ten or more players aged 20 or younger this season.
“I think the important thing about trying to bring in young guys is that you have to trust them to step up, and they have done that,” he insisted. “We lost a few senior players last year [due to a tightening up of controls on overseas players in the Premiership] – such as [stand-off] James Semple, [flanker] Travis Brooke, [hooker] Matt Goodwin and [centre] Fidias Efthymiou – and we knew that there might be a few bumps along the way, but what we have seen already is that these young guys have the ability to be very good players at this level, and can cause any team in this league problems when they are on form. We have always believed that it was just a matter of time before we found that consistency we need.”
“Sneds and Coxy are still here to share the load with me, so I don’t feel any extra responsibility at all. Plus Jamie Forbes has come back from Australia this season and has taken on a lot responsibility, and Fergus Scott has got a bit of professional experience,” he added.
Weston, Snedden and Cox have been key men at the club for so long now that it feels like they came in with the four point try. They were all part of the team which lifted the Balerno outfit’s first ever league championship trophy in 2006-7, were still there when they regained the title in 2009-10, and have now set their sights on helping this exciting crop of youngsters find their feet at Premiership level – knowing that the race for a play-off spot this year is still wide open and if they can make it into the top four by the end of the regular season then anything is possible.
“Ayr, Melrose and Hawks have given themselves a bit of a cushion, but after that everybody else is in with a shout – it really is that tight. Any team in this league can beat any other team on their day. Boroughmuir turned over Ayr, then Hawks beat Boroughmuir the following week, and the week after that Ayr went and beat Hawks, so it is shaping up to be a really interesting season,” reasoned Weston.
Having spent the first six weeks of the capaign bumping around the foot of the table, Currie lifted themselves to sixth in the table with a bonus point win over Boroughmuir last weekend. They are behind Watsonians on points difference and only two league points adrift of fourth placed Heriot’s.
The fact that they could have easily been sitting in that play-off slot after beating Heriot’s three weeks ago, only to slip up away to struggling Hawick in their next match (when half-backs Snedden and Forbes were both missing) is more of a minor frustration to Weston than a source of great anguish. There is a long way still to go in this league campaign and he is confident that his side has the ability to make up for their early season slip-ups.
“Hawick played really well on the day. We made a number of errors, our game management wasn’t very good and we were made to pay for that. We will learn from that. We are firmly of the belief that if we get our performance right then we can compete with most of the teams in the league. It is down to ourselves,” said Weston.
“There’s a lot of potential in the team. The more games we play the more the younger guys will get used to the level. Game management is the big issue. The key is getting in a position to win games when things are not going all our own way, and closing out games once we’ve got our noses in front,” he added.
With a number of players who were injured at the start of the season now returning to the mix, there is a cautiously optimistic sense around Malleny Park that the team are finally ready to really kick on – but they face a massive test of their mettle this weekend when a trip west to take on Glasgow Hawks is on the cards.
“Old Anniesland is always a tough place to play, and Hawks have been going really well this year. They’ll be hurting a bit after losing at Ayr last weekend so they’ll be desperate to put their season back on track,” agreed Weston.
In the longer term, he is keeping his cards close to his chest about whether this season is likely to be his swansong or just another instalment of a long running saga.
“There’s no plan set in in stone. We’ll see. It is one game at a time at the moment, never mind one season at a time. I’ll just wait until I get to the end of the year and see how the body is, see how fresh I feel for the challenge of another long campaign, and make a decision from there,” he said.
“I think having all these youngsters keeps you fresh. It means there is a real buzz around training, and that excitement on match day. Because of the way the season has started we are desperate to get things on the right track, so that stops you from spending too much time thinking about how old you are.”