“SOMEONE once said to me: ‘If you’re playing in the Southside [of Glasgow], it’s Cartha that are the family club and GHA are the performance club’. Why can’t we be both?”
Club captain Michael Fox has been around GHA for just a wee while. “I’ve been playing here probably since I was in second year at school,” he explains. “I was at St Aloysius College, so I’d train Saturday with them and GHA on Sunday.
“Then when I left school I wasn’t going to play anymore because I was sick of rugby, but my mate Ruairi O’Keefe, who’s also still playing, asked me down because the 2nd XV needed props that weekend. That was about 13 seasons ago, so safe to say I’m stuck now.”
As part of the furniture and having established himself as the club’s first-choice No 3, Fox featured in every game for GHA during the 2021-22 season … but didn’t make The Offside Line’s Team of the Week once, he’s keen to highlight.
But he is more interested today in discussing matters off the park, and specifically how the club can help those in the wider community not as fortunate as themselves.
To that end, two initiatives will be championed at Briadholm over the next couple of months.
Firstly, a collection for the Glasgow SE Foodbank, situated at the Elim Church on Inglefield Street, will be taking place to try and ensure families don’t go hungry over the festive period (working as part of the Trussell Trust network, that site alone gave out 11,689 emergency food packages last year out of a staggering UK-wide total of 2,173,158). And although this weekend’s match-day collection for donations has had to be postponed due to the inclement, boiler-busting weather, the clubhouse will remain open, and on Sunday the players themselves will be on hand to take in items.
“This all came about from a chat with current direct of rugby, Rangi Jericevich who was still playing at the time, maybe about five of six years ago, just as a players’ thing to give back to the community, and it’s grown and grown since,” explained Fox.
“It started off small, just a few bags here and there and it’s grown arms and legs. The club have really got behind it, down to our minis and midis section who play a massive part in it. Everyone pulls in. We try and let the members know as early as possible, all the players share on social media, and it just spreads.
“We’re letting those who can’t make it know that they can send money to us to buy donations, or even my mum’s pals have asked if she can leave bags with her for me to pick up. And every little does help.”
“We’re really trying to grow more and more into a ‘community’ club at every opportunity. We want to give back, and ask ourselves: In what ways can we?
“We’ve got quite a sociable squad, some of them are good friends, so we get a lot of buy-in for initiatives such as these because it can be nice to get together and do something that isn’t solely rugby-focused, and think about the bigger picture.
“We might be moaning after we’ve done hauling all the donations down the stairs and into the vans, but it’s quite a humbling experience when we get the figures about how many people we’ve helped out.”
The second initiative will be another foodbank collection, this time for the East Renfrewshire Larder, and they will also be running a mental health awareness week in conjunction with Breathing Space, the SRU’s Mental Wellbeing partner.
“Breathing Space have been down here before and spoken to the players about what they do and provide, and they’re a fantastic organisation so anything we can do to support them, we’re really keen to be involved.
“Stuart Lang, our former president and still a committee member, is spearheading the Breathing Space campaign and has big plans for it, so we’re hoping to announce details soon.
“I’m actually a poster-boy for Breathing Space, there’s a picture with a GHA huddle where I’m the only one leaning over, looking like I’m struggling, but that’s because I was out of breath. It was only the warm-up as well!”