CURRIE CHIEFTAINS scrum-half Gregor Christie is looking forward to catching up with his younger brother Finlay this week, but knows that it won’t be a priority for his sibling who will have to prioritise the small matter of preparing for New Zealand’s visit to Murrayfield to take on Scotland this Sunday.
Finlay, also a number nine, is in the mix for the All Blacks matchday 23 for the Autumn Nations Series clash having earned his 13th cap for Ian Foster’s men against Japan two weeks ago, although he missed out on the win over Wales on Saturday.
If things had panned out differently, Finlay could have been in camp with Scotland this week instead of staying in a city centre hotel in the capital with the visiting side, because he was born in the Borders General Hospital and brought up in Peebles then Aberdeen before the family emigrated to Pukekohe, south of Auckland around 20 years ago.
With a mother, Liz, who grew up around the Hislop area in the Borders and a father, Chris, from the Inverness area originally, it was inevitable that as Finlay’s professional rugby career began to develop a few years ago Scottish supporters started getting their hopes up that he may one day wear the thistle.
In a newspaper interview back in 2020, the younger Christie said “never say never” when asked if he might one day represent the country of his birth, but any hopes of that happening were dashed in mid-2021 when he earned his first All Blacks cap against Tonga.
“When we were kids, we never talked too much about which country we would play for if we had the chance, we were too busy just playing lots of different sports, having fun and fighting like most brothers,” Gregor, who at 28 is a year older than Finlay, said.
“We obviously knew about our Scottish family roots because we were both born here, but, as I say, as young fellas you probably aren’t thinking about things like that and not many folk get the chance to play internationally.
“I’m really proud of what Finlay has achieved in his career so far and watching him play for the All Blacks in the last year and a bit has been great. He’s really worked hard at his game to get to where he is.
“He was over here last Autumn [the All Blacks had matches with Wales, Italy, Ireland and France], but I was back home in New Zealand so I missed out on seeing him then.
“I did see him earlier this year in New Zealand before I came back to Scotland [to play for Stirling Wolves in Super6 followed by a return to the Premiership with the Chieftains] and this week will be cool because he will be here and mum and dad have also made the trip over.
“Our uncle [Sandy Fleming] is based out of a farm at Teviothead in the Borders too and I head down there and help him out with some work from time to time, so I’m sure there will be a few family catchups this week depending on Finlay’s schedule.
“He may stay over for a bit after their tour finishes too, so if he does I can show him around.
“Given our connections with both Scotland and New Zealand, it is pretty crazy that he could be playing at Murrayfield on Sunday and we will just have to wait and see what happens.”
Rewind two decades, when the Christie family first settled in New Zealand, gymnastics was Finlay’s main sport, but he and Gregor also played in the junior ranks for local rugby club Pukekohe.
It was not until his final year of school at Saint Kentigern College that rugby became a big thing for Finlay and, after watching him play for Pukekohe under-21s, former All Black Tana Umaga got him along to Counties Manukau.
His rugby journey has been on an upward curve since then, stints with the University of Canterbury and Tasman propelling him to go on to play Super Rugby for the Chiefs, the Hurricanes and the Blues.
“All of his moving about has meant we haven’t played much rugby together as adults, but as kids we always passed and kicked a ball about and we did get to play for Pukekohe at senior level together a few years ago which was cool,” Gregor said.
As for Gregor’s own rugby journey, well, in terms of the Scottish part of it, he played in the Premiership for Currie for a few months in 2018 and then turned out for them again during the 2019-20 season before the pandemic hit. During that season he earned Scotland Club XV honours, too.
In September 2020 he joined Watsonians and was going to play in Super6, but the proposed competition never took place because of a spike in Covid.
“That was frustrating, so I thought that was the best time to head back to New Zealand and be with family,” he explained.
“After around 18 months there, I came back to Scotland earlier this year and I played for Stirling Wolves in the Super6 Championship season that has just finished. It was tough given our results and our injuries, but there was a great bunch of lads there.
“With Super6 having a break for now and with my own plans to go travelling next summer, I have re-joined Currie Chieftains for now and have played in the last couple of games in the Premiership.
“It’s nice to back at Malleny Park and the league is competitive.”