OVER the last decade or so, a lot of things have changed in the Premiership and in Scottish club rugby in general, but the high level of performances put in by Hawick loose-head prop Shawn Muir have not.
This Saturday when the unbeaten top flight leaders take on bottom side Musselburgh at Mansfield Park, 29-year-old Muir is set to play his 200th match for his hometown club.
“I was told a couple of weeks ago that I was edging towards 200 appearances and it has kind of crept up on me, but I am very proud to have represented the club on so many occasions,” Muir, who captained the Greens to a bonus point win over Jed-Forest last weekend when regular skipper Matty Carryer was not in the matchday squad, said.
“If I am selected and the 200th game comes this Saturday it will be good to do it at Mansfield and it will be a nice day for my family and others who have supported me over the years.
“The constant supporter throughout my whole rugby career has been my dad, Gary, I don’t think he will have missed a home game that I have played, and he always stands at the same spot on the banking.
“Every time I run out of the tunnel I can see him, and every time play is on that side of the pitch I know where he’ll be while we always chat about rugby after each game, so it’ll be good for him to see me reach the milestone.
“And my partner Leah and three-year-old son Oakley have been great support to me too. Oakley is a bit young to know what is going on rugby-wise just yet, but he has been down a few times to see me playing and he has made my Sundays a lot better.
“In the past, if the team had lost on Saturday I’d still be grumpy about it on Sunday, but now he takes my mind off things and I can see the bigger picture.
“Reaching 200 games is obviously special, but I think the thing that makes playing for Hawick so good is that while we celebrate things like this for individuals, everything we all do is for the good of the team.
“From game one to game 199 so far, all I have ever tried to do is do my best for the team and I’ll continue to do that in what has been a positive season for us to date.”
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Muir made his Hawick 1st XV debut in a Border League match on a midweek night against Langholm whilst still at school back during the 2010-11 season. “It was quite strange for me as a 17-year-old suddenly being in the same team as guys I’d been watching play like Matt Landels, Bruce McNeil and Rory Hutton, but I tried to make the most of it and just enjoy the experience,” he recounts.
“It was quite daunting, but I think it prepared me for what was to come next and as soon as I left school that summer I headed down to Hawick for pre-season training.
“Deek Armstrong was the head coach at the time, but I injured my hamstring in pre-season and was out for quite a spell and by the time I was fit and able to play, Rocky Johnstone and Jim Renwick were in temporary charge.
“Phil Leck then took over as head coach and I had a good run of games that season and never really looked back.
“I was coming up against more physical and more streetwise props week after week and although some of the games were tough, that run in the first team at such a young age allowed me to learn on the job and really focus on the things that I could do to make me a better player.”
Hawick were relegated in 2011-12, but bounced straight back to the top flight in 2012-13 when they defeated Dundee HSFP in a play-off 39-38 at Meggetland at the end of the season.
By that point Muir had already played for Scotland under-17s and under-18s. He turned out for the under-20s in the age-grade Six Nations in early 2013 and was all set to go to the World Championship in France that summer before injury ruled him out.
Over the last decade he has been a near constant feature at Mansfield. He helped the side under the leadership of co-coaches Scott MacLeod and Nikki Walker get to the Scottish Cup final in 2014/15 only to lose to Boroughmuir at Murrayfield, while George Graham made him captain during his spell in charge.
“I have enjoyed working with all of the head coaches who have been in charge over the last 11 years or so, but I particularly liked working under George,” Muir, who has earned seven Scotland Club XV caps and away from rugby works for Barrie Knitwear, said.
“As a former prop himself I learnt a lot from him while he gave me the responsibility of captaincy at quite a young age and I thank him for trusting me with that.
“When he came in midway through the 2017-18 season, we had lost our first 10 games [including a 70-7 thumping at Heriot’s] and we looked almost down and out. Coming back to stay up that season is probably one of my proudest achievements for Hawick and we all just worked so hard, it was a bit of a great escape.
“Over the next two seasons, before the pandemic came, George got us on the right track again and that gave us momentum which we have built on in the last season and a bit.
“Current head coach Matty Douglas puts in a lot of hard work and has done really well for someone so young – I never thought I’d have a head coach younger than me! – and after making the play-offs last year we knew what we were capable of this time around.
“So far this season we have one draw and nine wins under our belts and that is excellent, there is a buzz around the club, but we will not get too carried away and the aim remains to secure a home semi-final.
“Musselburgh might be bottom, but they beat Marr a few weeks ago and we still feel we have not found our best performance yet, so we will be focused on Saturday.”