GORDON REID gets top marks for stating the bleeding obvious. “I’m not doing it for the money,” he protests with real conviction, when asked why a current member of Scotland’s World Cup training squad has chosen to commit to play next season in the part-time professional Super 6 league, which is being launched to sit above the traditional club game, offering a maximum salary of £12,000.
At 32 years of age, Reid could easily have a few years left in the tank as a top level loose-head prop if he wants it, and having played at the sharp end of the professional game with Glasgow Warriors and London Irish for the last eight years, picking up 34 caps for Scotland along the way, he offers real rugby pedigree to any prospective employer. But some things in life are more important than glory and financial reward, so when a potential move back to Warriors stalled during the summer, he knew there was only one place he wanted to play this coming season.
“I’m pleased to be back with my family, that is the main thing,” he explains, just a few moments after being unveiled as the newly branded Ayrshire Bulls’ marquee signing of the summer at a civic function at Millbrae last night. “I loved it down in London, but my wife didn’t so she moved back up. From then on it was always my goal to get back up here to be with Marissa and our daughter Emerson. Whether that was playing here or elsewhere, it had to be near my family, so when this opportunity came up, I grabbed it with both hands.
“I spoke to Glasgow Warriors, but it just didn’t seem to fit – for either side – so you move on. I’ve spent a lot of time away from my family in the last year and it’s been really tough – there’s been tears and a lot of stress – so this was the right decision to make. I did have offers over in France and elsewhere, but family is more important to me than anything else.
“Ayr – or should I say Ayrshire Bulls – are on the up,” he adds. “They are looking at moving premises to Dam Park and they are going to be part of Super 6. It has always been an upwards looking club. The success it has had over the years – the players who have come through – I’m just looking forward to getting involved and having a bit of fun.”
Reid’s praise of Ayr rugby comes from a position of experience. He came through the age-grade ranks at the club before graduating to the 1st XV where he was a member of the first Millbrae side to win the Scottish championship in 2009. He signed a pro contract with Glasgow Warriors in the summer of 2011, but never forgot where he had come from.
“I played with a lot of good players here through those early years,” he says. “People like Glen Tippett, Ewen Logan, Damien Kelly and Gordon Sykes, who helped me get to where I am.
“I remember when I first went away and signed with Glasgow, [club stalwart] Norrie Lymburn said to me: ‘Make sure you come back before I kick the bucket. I want to see you play here once more.’ That’s always stayed in my head. It’s not all just about me or the players, it’s about lots of great people who have put so much into the club over the years.”
While Super 6 is designed to give ambitious young players a stepping stone into the pro game, it will be a real boost to the competition to have a player with Reid’s ability, experience and personality there, as a role model for team-mates and as a benchmark for opponents to test themselves against.
He will have to find a way to supplement his income eventually but is in no rush to jump into a new career. His target is purely making the World Cup, and thereafter it seems likely he will spend some of his off-field time helping Ayr to grow the sport in the local community, whilst enjoying being back living day-to-day with his family.
“People say: ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ Well, I don’t have a clue what I want to be when I grow up because I’m only 32,” Reid quips. “I’ve been offered jobs, spoken to various different people, and I’m open to any suggestions. I’ve got a few strings to my bow from things I’ve done outside rugby, and I’m going to try some new things along the way. But at the moment, all I’m concentrating on is the World Cup. That’s where my career starts and finishes for the next few months.”
Making a real difference
Former team-mate Tippett, who is now Business and Partnership Manager at the club, chips in.
“The big thing for us with Gordie is that it is not just about his playing rugby,” he explains. “He is a fantastic role model for a lot of our young people. One of the things we talked about when Super 6 was first announced was creating a front-row club where we start to encourage young people to want to play in the front-row, helping mums and dads about how safe it is to play there, and what better role model than having somebody as engaging as Gordie, who also has that huge amount of experience.”
Meanwhile, head coach Peter Murchie agrees that Reid’s influence on the team and on there wider club community will be huge.
“It is not our recruitment policy to go signing ex-pros, but I really felt that Gordie was different,” he says. “It is not as if it was someone on the way down – he is in the current World Cup training squad – so when the chance arose we had to do everything we could to get him.
“It’s a great story, isn’t it? Local boy done good – he’s played for Glasgow Warriors, London Scottish, got a lot of caps for Scotland, and now he’s coming back to give us a really big boost going into this new competition. He’s a great character, the supporters love him, everything just fits with Gordie.”
Reid and long-serving Kiwi stand-off Frazier Climo are the Bulls’ only two confirmed recruits so far, but the drip-feed of names is going to build momentum over the next four to six weeks ahead of the deadline for finalising next season’s 35-man Super 6 squads at the end of next month.
“We’re in a good place,” insists Murchie. “Were pretty much there – we’re certainly further along than I thought we would be – but signing guys is only part of it. The main thing is how we come together as a team and apply ourselves.”
“It is about taking the best bits from Ayr RFC, who have been such a successful team, but it also has to feel different, and we have to be better than we were last year,” he concludes.