BOROUGHMUIR BEARS will not be part of the upcoming Super Series Championship play-offs, but the Meggetland men deserve credit for maintaining their commitment to giving youth a chance to flourish, and they will hope to reap some reward for that policy by finishing a generally frustrating campaign strongly this weekend and next.
Since the launch of Super6/Super Series in Autumn 2019, Bears’ head coach Graham Shiel‘s approach to player development has helped the likes of Liam McConnell, Duncan Munn and Jerry Blyth-Lafferty go on to earn full-time Academy contracts with the two pro teams – and in recent months Euan Muirhead has really caught the eye.
Now 19, the full-back joined the Bears quite late into their pre-season block for this Championship campaign, but he settled in quickly and has scored eight tries in 10 appearances in the competition to date.
The seventh-placed Bears have two home matches left, against Stirling Wolves today [Saturday] and the Future XV next Friday, and Muirhead is conscious that these games will provide two more opportunities to put himself in the shop window.
“I have really enjoyed coming into the Bears’ environment and testing myself,” he said. “I got a call from [Bears head coach] Graham Shiel in the summer asking if I’d be keen to make the step up and I wanted to give it a go as I have aspirations of making the Scotland under-20 squad for the Six Nations.
“I’m based through in Glasgow and I live with [fellow Boroughmuir player] Andrew McLean, so we travel through to Edinburgh for training and matches together,” added Muirhead, who is in the second year of a sport and exercise science degree at the University of the West of Scotland.
“Super Series has definitely been a step up to what I have been used to before, and at the Bears there are a number of experienced players to learn from as well as other youngsters like me who are taking first steps at this level.
“In the backline, I have quality players like Joe Jenkins, Scott Robeson and, until recently, [GB Sevens’ man] Kaleem Barreto around me to learn from and whenever I have had game time I have just tried to do my bit for the team.
“It has certainly been a learning curve and results haven’t always gone our way, but there is a great bunch of guys here and I’m really glad that I came to Meggetland. We just want to try and finish the season on a high with two wins now.”
Muirhead, who is currently part of the ‘players of national interest’ group which trains regularly at Ravenscraig in Motherwell under the watchful eye of the under-20 coaches, is originally from the Lockerbie area and took up the game just around the time he was moving from primary school to Lockerbie Academy.
“My grandpa was the one that got me started in rugby at Annan,” he said. “He had been involved with the Annan club previously and he took me down to the youth section and I really enjoyed it.
“For my under-15s year I moved to Dumfries Saints and I played there right up until the under-18s and also played some senior rugby, too, which at the time was a big step up, but the senior players and the coaches there helped me adapt. It was good to get a few appearances for the 1st XV.
“Around that time I was at college in Glasgow and rugby-wise was mainly playing 12 or 13 while before that I had played for Glasgow & The Wast under-16s and been to a few Scotland under-16s camps, but that was around the time the pandemic began.”
At the tail end of Covid times, Muirhead was handed a junior Academy contract with Scottish Rugby. “I was part of that set up for a year and it was a good environment, we pushed each other on,” he recalls. “That led into me being selected for the Scotland under-18 squad for the Six Nations Festival being played in Marcoussis near Paris in early 2022.
“That was an eye-opening experience in terms of performance rugby and an experience I took a lot from. By then I was mainly focused on playing full-back and it took a bit of work to transition from the centre, but I have enjoyed it and like being at 15 now while being able to cover other positions.
“I spent the 2022-23 season with Glasgow Hawks and it was good to get a shot at the Premiership and see where I was at and since then the Bears has been my focus.”