NEW captain Rory Watt believes Musselburgh can take momentum from a cracking end to 2022-23 along and some positive pre-season results into the Premiership campaign which gets underway on Saturday.
Last term the East Lothian outfit faced a killer start to the campaign against all the top sides and it took until October 29th to record a league win, and until December 3rd to secure their second triumph, but after Christmas they were like a new side with a run of three victories in their final three games completing their ‘great escape’.
Those crucial wins in January and February came versus GHA, Jed-Forest and Glasgow Hawks and saw them finish in ninth spot.
They ended up three points above relegated GHA and celebrations were, rightly, enjoyed, but now they want to take things to the next level in Derk O’Riordan’s second season in charge.
Musselburgh, who celebrated their centenary in 2021, have been in the top flight since 2019 and centre Watt, who has taken over the main leadership role from Danny Owenson, said: “We’d rather have not had to win our last few games to stay up last year, we’d rather have secured our safety a bit earlier, but looking back on things it was an exciting time for us. The team spirit and battling qualities shown in those last few weeks were an example what the club is all about
“Over the years, we have saved ourselves late on a couple of times in seasons and also won a couple of promotions on final days, so we always knew we had it in us to do it.
“It had taken us until December to get up to two wins in the league, but Musselburgh is a close-knit club and a lot of us have played in the same team for a number of years, so that belief was always there.
“Sometimes, when you are not winning a lot, heads can go down, but that was never the case while the guys that came in like Michael Badenhorst and Paul Bogie really bought into the culture and our performances improved.
“We are proud of what we achieved, but we don’t want to be in the same situation again and we want to kick on this season
“After Christmas we built up a bit of momentum and the aim now is to take that into this campaign. Now it is night and day from where we were during last pre-season, so we are feeling in a good spot and we are making good progress.”Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 60)
As well as finishing second bottom in the league last year, Musselburgh were knocked out of the Scottish Cup in the second round by Selkirk, but as Watt says, they feel in better shape now and pre-season results reinforce that assertion.
During August they have beaten Berwick 46-28, Dundee Rugby 28-21, local rivals Preston Lodge 38-29 to lift the Jardine Cup and then, just last Saturday, came from behind to defeat Ayr 26-19.
Watt began his career playing at nearby Portobello but headed along to Musselburgh to play youth rugby at Stoneyhill and has never looked back.
“Apart from one year away playing senior rugby at Edinburgh Accies I have been at Musselburgh ever since then and it is a really great club,” the 28-year-old, who is a plumber by trade and whose brother Sandy also represents the club, explained.
“A lot of guys who I have played 1st XV with at Musselburgh were guys who also played youth rugby at the club and it shows just what a good community club it is – we have all stuck around because we enjoy the culture on and off the pitch
“There are always past players and members there to support us, even when we are losing, and the buzz in the clubhouse after home matches is always good, there is a real family feel to things and that is nice.
“We know that we are smaller than a lot of the clubs in the Premiership, but we are proud to be playing at this level and we know that on our day we can compete with all of the teams in the division and give a good account of ourselves.
“With so many games coming up on the spin in the next couple of months, the key is getting off to a better start this time around and the building up from there.
“For me, it is a great honour to be asked to be captain, I have been vice-captain for a few years before while we have plenty leaders in the group, so I’m looking forward to seeing how we can do.
“It’ll be good to start with a home game on Saturday, but we know that newly promoted Kelso will be a tough game and we have to be ready for it.”
The opening round of 2023-24 Premiership matches will be played this weekend, all kicking off at 3pm on Saturday –
- Hawick v Glasgow Hawks
- Heriot’s Blues v Marr
- Jed-Forest v Edinburgh Academicals
- Musselburgh v Kelso
- Selkirk v Currie Chieftains