ONE of the most impressive aspects of Hawick’s unbeaten start to this Premiership season has been the central role played by No 8 Jae Linton, who suffered a potentially playing career ending injury last season which kept him out of action for nine month.
After a draw against Selkirk in week one, the Greens have since beaten Jed-Forest, Edinburgh Accies, Heriot’s Blues, GHA and, most impressively, Marr last weekend.
They currently hold the Bill McLaren Shield, which they will defend at Malleny Park on Saturday afternoon when the third placed Borderers take on the second placed Currie Chieftains in a hotly anticipated clash.
The battle of the back-row units will be key in that one and if Hawick are to win at that ground for the first time in a few years then Linton will have to put in a giant shift alongside Connor Sutherland and Calum Renwick.
In the 20-3 win over Marr at Mansfield Park last time out, Linton made his 50th appearance for the club and it was a sweet moment, especially given that match 44 had not gone to plan last term and had left him pondering his future.
The 23-year-old was aiming to clear out a ruck in the Premiership match against GHA on the 3G pitch at the Border town’s Volunteer Park last November when he felt something unusual. At first, he thought it was just a ‘stinger’ or a shoulder problem, but a few minutes later he knew there was something wrong and the club doctor Morag Robertson came onto the pitch.
“I was taken straight to the BGH [Borders General Hospital] and it turned out that I had fractured a vertebrae in my neck,” Linton explains. “It was a bit of a shock, I was out of hospital that night and there was no operation needed, but I was in a neck brace for 10 weeks and that meant I couldn’t work [for family firm Sean Linton Plastering], so I was stuck in the house.
“Thee first thing I had asked the doctors was ‘will I be able to play rugby again?’. Obviously it was not a question they wanted to answer straight off the bat as it wasn’t their priority, but as time went on still nobody could give me an answer and I did get a bit worried that they were keeping bad news from me, so the thought that I might never play again did cross my mind.
“It was a bit unclear for about six months, but then the club booked me an appointment up at Spire Murrayfield and thankfully the specialist there gave me the all clear to play again once I was finished my rehab which was a big relief.
“The Hawick doctor Morag Robertson and the other medical people at the club, as well as S&C coach Dave Cowan, have all been brilliant,” he added. “Morag has been a good sounding board for me and was always reassuring me during the tougher times while, once I had a rehab plan in place, Dave pushed me hard to allow me to re-join training with the boys in the summer.
“When I was out I realised how much I missed rugby, so it was great to get a good pre-season under my belt and then some sevens tournaments before the XVs campaign began.
“I played at both the Peebles Sevens and our own tournament in August, winning the latter, and it was nice to be back out there again.”
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While Peebles and Hawick were useful run outs, the big test for Linton came on August 20th when he played in the fifteen-a-side pre-season friendly down at Tynedale. Hawick drew and Linton came through the game well. Since then he has been a consistent performer in the league for Matty Douglas’ side.
“We are pleased with how we have started the season, but we know there is a long way to go,” said Linton. “We also feel like we still have a couple of gears to go up if we are to find that 80 minute performance that we are looking for.
“Currie are a very good side, especially at home, and we know that it will be a real test at the weekend.
“We have to take confidence from the way we have been going though and these are the kind of big games I missed playing in when I was injured.”