THE Scotstoun stands have not yet managed to join in unison to recreate the cult football terrace anthem in praise of Glasgow Warriors’ compact midfield maestro – but Nick Grigg certainly has a burgeoning reputation amongst the fans as a key member of Dave Rennie’s squad.
With Alex Dunbar, Huw Jones, Pete Horne and Sam Johnson also competing for a starting slot at centre when fit and available – plus exciting youngsters Paddy Kelly and Stafford McDowall sneaking up on the rails – there is no shortage of options in that area of the park. But Grigg has carved out a valuable niche as a strike runner capable of hitting clever angles at pace, which allows him to punch far bigger holes than the uninitiated might anticipate from his 5ft 9inch, 90kilo frame.
Recognition of his standing at the club arrived yesterday [Wednesday] when it was announced that Grigg is the first player to re-sign with the Warriors for next season.
“Yeah, it was a good decision. I’m pretty comfortable here in Glasgow. I enjoy the atmosphere of the crowd and the city and the players, so I’m keen to stay, ” said the 25-year-old, who has committed to the club up until May 2020.
“There was a couple of things [other options] floating around, but it was a bit up in the air and I wasn’t too sure what was going on. I’m happy here and happy to sign – so it is good news.”
Good news indeed, and it comes just a day after Grigg was named in the Scotland training squad ahead of next month’s Autumn Test Series, which brings with it the mouth-watering prospect for the player of turning out against the country of his birth.
Born in Johnsonville, a suburb on the outskirts of Wellington on New Zealand’s North Island, Grigg came through the age-grade ranks in the nation’s capital, and was playing club rugby for Petone when he first caught the eye of Gregor Townsend, who was at that time still head coach at Glasgow Warriors.
“Gregor saw my YouTube video and my agent, Tom Beattie, helped with the transition over. It hasn’t been much of a culture shock to be honest, it’s quite similar here to New Zealand apart from a couple of weather differences. I live in Glasgow’s West End near the Botanical Gardens, it’s nice there,” explains the player.
“My grandad is from Ayr so I have that heritage behind me,” he continues. “I guess I wasn’t really thinking about actually playing for Scotland at the time I came over – I was just kind of thinking: ‘Cool, a free trip to Scotland, let’s see how it goes?’ But a couple of years later and my goals and aspirations have hit the roof. As long as I keep working hard I’m sure I can achieve them. Gregor giving me the chance to go on the last summer tour was awesome.”
“The competitive environment we have at this club has helped me for sure. The training environment here and the coaches we’ve had – Gregor, then Dave and Jason coming in, with Matt Taylor as well – has really helped develop me as a player. I came across a bit rusty and a bit of a social club player and they’ve really put a lot of work and effort into me, and I thank them for that because my skills have come on and the lines that I run have developed.”
Grigg made his Scotland debut against Fiji during the summer, which was not a great moment for Scottish rugby, but certainly whetted his appetite for more involvement. Any sort of role next month would be great, but a run-out against his homeland would be extra special.
“I’m stoked to make the squad. I got the email the other day so it was pretty awesome telling my parents that I was going to be involved over those three matches – and obviously looking at that All Blacks Test, it would be amazing to give my all against them.”
“Back in Wellington, I played a fair bit of club rugby against Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara and Vaea Fifita, who is just coming through the ranks into the All Blacks team.”
He laughs when asked if he is expecting any of the tourists to get in touch before the big match.
“I’m pretty big time now so I’ll see what happens,” he chuckles, self-depracatingly.
“I’ve been to a few games to watch at Murrayfield so I know that the atmosphere is amazing. Just hearing the national anthem from the crowd’s perspective is awesome, so I’d really love to get in amongst it. I would belt it out. I know it word for word. I made sure of that on tour.”
After a frustrating European fortnight, the PRO14 season re-commences for the the Warriors this Friday, with winless Southern Kings arriving at Scotstoun. A convincing victory in that match would be both the ideal end to a very rewarding week for Grigg, and also a great launch-pad into what he hopes will be an even more satisfying month ahead.