AS Twitter storms go, it was more of a gentle shower than a hurricane. And the often curmudgeonly nature of social media meant it was almost inevitable that somebody would try to find a way to cast a shadow over Premier Sports’ announcement of an impressive roster of Scottish ‘talent’ for their coverage of the Guinness PRO14 this season. So, Rory Hamilton has lost exactly zero minutes of sleep worrying about the suggestion that a commentator who has most recently worked in football should not be on the mic when Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors play at home this season.
Several members of the Twitterati quickly jumped to Hamilton’s defence when his credentials were questioned online two weeks ago, pointing out that he actually took his first steps into the world of commentary talking about the oval ball game, and that he has continued to pick up various freelance rugby gigs since then despite having more opportunities to develop his career in football.
He started out in a junior production role with STV about 12 years ago, then moved to Setanta as an assistant producer in 2007 covering a range of sports, including the Magners League, as it was then known. After Setanta’s demise in 2009, he started picking up weekend shifts with STV Rugby, and when a production meeting addressed the fact that there was Welsh and Irish commentators covering the action but no Scottish voice, the bold Hamilton decided to throw his hat into the ring.
“I jokingly said that I’d do a game for them if they wanted and didn’t think too much more about it, then the following Thursday night I got a phone call asking if I wanted to have a bash at the Edinburgh versus Connacht game the following day,” he recalls
“Edinburgh won 62-13 so I had plenty to talk about, and that’s how my commentary career started. I did STV Rugby for four years and picked up a few other gigs like the HSBC World Sevens Series at Scotstoun for Sky, and various bits and pieces for Radio Scotland.
“But I was getting on quite well at Sky, who had more opportunities for me as a football commentator, and I guess that’s why my career path diverted a little bit into the football side of things.”
He continues: “But I always kept my hand in with rugby. When I was doing Sky Sports news I was always bugging them to let me go and do features with Edinburgh and the Warriors, which tended to be around European rugby when they had the rights to that. And I’ve done a fair bit with the SRU and the Warriors as well, hosting and stadium announcing and that sort of thing.
“When I got the chance to go to BT Sport last year, that became my full-time role. I was contracted to doing 50 live games per season with them and that will continue now – hopefully there won’t be too much overlap.”
Hamilton is clearly going to be a busy boy, but he says the prep gets easier as the season wears on. “Right at the beginning you need to work really hard to make sure you are across everything – changes in players, management, the laws and so on – until you get in a groove and it becomes second nature to you,” he explains.
As an example, Hamilton admits to being relieved that he had a week off for the opening round of matches in this PRO14 campaign, because Stuart Hogg’s new streamlined haircut would have caused him an embarrassing early faux pas.
“In the first minute of that Warriors game down in Connacht, I was saying to myself: that’s a great kick through there by Nick Grigg for Tommy Seymour to run onto. And I was instantly glad that I wasn’t working because Stuart Hogg has, of course, shaved off all his hair and it was him that put the kick through. It sometimes takes you a couple of minutes, especially early on in the season, to get up to speed. So, I’d have completely messed that up!”
Glasgow v Munster
Hamilton will get his first chance tonight to let his talking do the … er … talking on home soil for Premier Sports, when he is on the mic for Warriors’ first home match of the season against Munster. He couldn’t have asked for a better contest to start with.
“I wouldn’t say I have big match nerves, I would say big match excitement,” says Hamilton. “Glasgow versus Munster is one of those games which sticks out in the entire league calendar, and I think fans from clubs across the league will be looking at it and wondering how it is going to go.
“This early on, it is a big chance for both teams to set a tone for the rest of the season, after they both picked up bonus point wins in week one.”
“Traditionally, the Munster pack sets the benchmark and you can imagine the Glasgow forwards right now really want to show up and put on a big display because that’s where the team is being questioned at the moment. They’ll be desperate to prove that they are big enough and can carry enough ball to boss a pack like Munster.
“Adam Ashe coming back in gives them extra ball-carrying strength, Oli Kebble is getting his first chance to have a run in the team after a nightmare run of injuries last season, and with Rob Harley going into the second-row they’ve got essentially four back-rows on the pitch, so it is an interesting team selection. It’s going to be a great game to talk about.”
Dougie Vipond will host tonight’s coverage, while Rory Lawson and Doddie Weir are the expert witnesses.
Premier Sports will broadcast all 152 Guinness PRO14 matches this season, including Glasgow Warriors v Munster and Ulster v Edinburgh this evening – click HERE to find out more and subscribe