YOUNG hooker Gregor Hiddleston is making his mark in his first season in the Tennent’s Premiership with a GHA side who are set to return to action this coming weekend.
The 19-year-old came through the ranks at his local club, Dumfries Saints, before making the move to the Glasgow-based Braidholm outfit before 2021-22 got underway.
“I am really enjoying testing myself for the first time in the Premiership,” the up-and-coming front-rower, who works for his family firm Solway Recycling, explains. “Over the years I have always been passionate about my rugby and I am always trying to improve so when Euan Clark [the FOSROC Academy coach for Glasgow & the West] phoned me up in the summer and said that GHA head coach Trevor Carmichael was keen to have a chat with me it sounded like a good step up for me at this stage of my career.
“Trevor had seen me playing in some Glasgow age-grade games, so he approached Dumfries and then I joined GHA.
“Obviously it was tough for me to leave Dumfries because I had played there since I was a wee boy in the mini section and have grown up with all of my friends there, but I had to take the opportunity to play in the top flight and they were understanding of that.”
Hiddleston’s connections with National League Two side Dumfries go deeper than having just represented them from the minis all the way up to the 1st XV. His mother, Sharon, is now the president of the Park Farm club and he played alongside cousin, Sam Hiddleston, after breaking into the club’s 1st XV in 2019-20.
“I was playing in the Dumfries under-18s at the start of that season, but there were a few injuries in the 1st XV so I got my chance midway through the year,” the player, who did a college course at SRUC Barony after his schooldays at Wallace Hall Academy, explains.
“Normally I play hooker, but because I was only 17 at the time I had to play back-row. It was a big step up in terms of physicality for me, but I enjoyed it and by the time the pandemic came in March 2020 we were going well at the top end of the league.
“Dumfries is a tight-knit community and everyone knows everyone at the rugby club, so I had my cousin Sam and other players looking out for me in those games while the coach at the time, Euan Mack, was my old PE teacher.”
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Lockdowns and the like then hit us all but Hiddleston trained diligently on his own at home which meant he was able to hit the ground running when GHA came calling ahead of rugby’s return.
“Everyone at the club has made me feel very welcome so far,” he said. “Trevor and forwards coach Calum Forrester are very honest coaches who are approachable and easy to talk to and I like that because I want to push myself to get better.
“This is obviously my first ever season in the Premiership and my first season playing senior rugby at hooker and I feel I have adapted well and learnt from each game I have played.
“As well as the coaches, it is great to be able to learn from experienced props like Tony Brogan and Michael Fox, as well as captain Jamie McCarthy and others.
“The season has been a bit ‘stop-start’ for one reason or another, but in our last game against Musselburgh we played well to win 38-20 with stand-off Andrew Goudie controlling things. Now we want to take that type of form up to Aberdeen Grammar this coming weekend.”
Although they have games in hand on others, GHA are 19 points off the play-off places already so top-four feels like a long-shot, but they will be keen to push up the table and move away from any relegation issues.
And while most of his team-mates have not played for a fortnight, Hiddleston was kept fresh by getting 30 minutes off the bench in the Junior 1872 Cup match for Glasgow Warriors Under-20s against Edinburgh last Sunday.
Glasgow won 43-21 at Scotstoun and he concludes: “I just tried to play as well as I could when I came on and hopefully I made an impact.
“Now I want to kick on with GHA over the next few weeks while I am also really keen to push for Scotland under-20s selection as it is a big aim of mine to represent the country at that level.”