CAL DAVIES was playing for Haddington in East League One in September 2019 when Fergus Pringle got in touch to sound him out about linking up with Watsonians for the inaugural Super6 season.
The Myreside men had lost Ross Graham to a long-term shoulder injury so were light at hooker, and Pringle suspected that Davies might be able to fill the gap.
That hunch proved to be spot-on. Three years down the line and Davies is firmly established as a central cog in the Watsonians wheel, delivering a man-of-the-match performance as captain of the side in last weekend’s Super6 Sprint Series round one victory over Stirling County, winning a series of important turnovers in a high-energy all-round display.
“I’ve known Fergus for years,” says the 29-year-old. “He was actually my coach in the PAIS programme [Performance Athletes In Schools – run by East Lothian Council for all sports] when I was at school, so that goes back 12 years at least.”
He might have been plucked from relative obscurity to become part of the Watsonians Super6 squad, but Davies had experience of playing at a higher level. After leaving school, he’d had spells playing for Haddington, Boroughmuir and in New Zealand, then took a year out the game before returning to Haddington to play socially.
“I had pushed my rugby quite hard in New Zealand, where I got a bit of representative stuff, so after that I was quite content playing with my mates,” he explains. “I wasn’t really looking beyond that until Ferg came down to watch me play against Ross High. When he got in touch to say that he was looking for a back-up hooker, it was out of the blue, but I thought I’d give it a shot for one season … and here I am three years later! I’ve really enjoyed the competitive nature and professionalism of it.
“It sounds like an obvious thing to say, but the guys who join Super6 want to be in Super6 – they opt into it – so everyone is doing that extra stuff outside of the regular training nights, like S&C programmes and video analysis, which makes a big difference to your game.”
Davies played for the Coastal Rugby Club whilst in New Zealand, where the Barrett clan had come through the ranks, and he actually worked on the Barrett family’s dairy farm. “It was a 5am start to milk the cows, then I’d go to the gym, grab a bit of lunch, and be back in to milk them again in the afternoon,” he explains.
The early morning didn’t do his rugby much harm and his club form led to trials with the Taranaki NPC team, as well as several development and invitational match appearances for the province, including one against South Korea as a warm-up to their 2019 World Cup qualifying campaign.
Back in Scotland, Davies went into his family’s hospitality business in Dunbar and is in the process of applying to join the police. His current work situation meant he was able to take up an invite to train with Edinburgh during the recent Six Nations window.
“With Stuart McInally in the Scotland squad, Dave Cherry on the cusp of it and Patrick Harrison with the under-20s, there wasn’t a whole lot of depth at hooker, so they got me in,” he explains. “It was mainly holding a bag, but I got to travel with the team and see how they operate close-up, so it was a really worthwhile experience.
“The big thing I took from it is how they look at the wee details. It’s something which you don’t really appreciate goes on when you are not in that environment. Getting that experience for a couple of months has definitely helped my game and hopefully I can pass some of it on at Watsonians to help the rest of the team.
“I’m not holding my breath on it developing into anything more, but it was a good experience,” he adds. “I’m quite happy where I am and I’m not looking too far ahead of that.
“I’m 29 now but I didn’t get started playing rugby until I was 16, and didn’t move to hooker until I was 19, so I think I’ll be able to carry on for a few more years. We’ve got Iain Moody in the team at 34, so he’s setting the benchmark!”
Next up for Watsonians is the Southern Knights at The Greenyards tomorrow [Saturday] afternoon.
“They have lost a few of their key men from last season so they are a bit of an unknown entity, but the one thing we’ve learned from Super6 over the last three years is that every team is capable of turning over every other team on their day,” concludes Davies.
“You have to front up for every match because if you don’t you will pay the price.”