Stuart Hogg: There's no place like home
Some day “a day out of Hawick is a day wasted” and those words could not be more true for Stuart Hogg.
The experienced full-back, who has electrified the nation with his attacking flair and speedy agility, is keen to pay tribute to his home roots.
“I just love going back home; seeing everyone, talking up the accent and getting some fresh air,” he said. I get a huge amount of support from Hawick. All my best mates still live back home and you are seen as a normal person, which I really like. If you get too big for your boots then you are going to get knocked back down quite quickly – especially in Hawick.”
If you ask a local Hawick lad what he would like to be when he is older, he is likely to say either of the following: a jockey or a rugby player. Fortunately for Hogg, his talents shone through the latter option from an early age.
“I was fortunate enough to be a part of a good school team growing up and I absolutely loved playing,” he said. “I think we always tried to have as much fun as we possibly could. I started playing at stand-off and then they asked me to move to inside centre. I asked why and they explained that there was a two-pass rule before you could score and the pass would come to me and I would dummy and try to score myself. The amount of times I did that from standoff, I would get myself disqualified. It was good fun growing up and I loved it.”
Hogg’s eyes light up as he reminisces about his time playing for the Green Machine. Despite playing only 13 matches for the Hawick senior side, it is clear that his time playing on the respected turf of Mansfield Park has played a crucial part in his life.
Hogg swiftly rose up through the ranks in the early stages of his rugby career and soon switched his green jersey for dark blue – as he went on to represent Scotland at under-17, under-18 and under-20 level.
“I played for both Hawick PSA and Hawick Wanderers,” he said. “During my time with Hawick Wanderers, I really started to enjoy and learn a lot more about rugby and that was around the time I started to get involved in the age-grade set-up. We had a great coach in Gerry McGuinness. We won the league on numerous occasions and it was during that time when I realised I wanted to achieve something more.”
It’s fair to say that Stuart isn’t the only Hogg who is a ‘weel kent face’ from Hawick. Stuart’s father, John, played as a championship winning full-back for Hawick before becoming a rugby referee and has worked over the past 20 years as a production manager for a local knitwear company. His brother, Graham, played for Scotland 7s in the IRB Sevens World Series as well as representing Scotland at three different age grades.
Hogg continued: “I think my brother has also been a massive influence in my life. He was at the level where he was very close to achieving something special. He was in the academy set-up and he went on the Scotland 7s tours a few times. Following him around with my family is what made me want to be a rugby player. I went to watch him play in Dubai for the World Rugby U20 Championship and you could see how much it meant to him. I think the worst thing that has ever happened during my rugby career was when I came in for my entry medical and my brother had just finished his exit medical. That was a bit tough on us but during his time playing he was class and he would have probably been sitting here alongside me.”
For a man who had achieved 65 international caps by the end of 2018, been on two British & Irish Lions tours and won the RBS 6 Nations Player of the Championship award for two consecutive years, there is still one dream he hasn’t been able to achieve: being the Hawick Cornet.
“I was involved in the Common Riding for many years. I actually had to stop riding when I signed my first contract. Obviously back in the day everyone wanted to be involved and wanted to be the Cornet, but unfortunately my time has passed now.
“My son Archie had his first shot on the family pony back home last week, so if he wants to jump on that, then that is grand. It’s a big part of Hawick traditions and I love going back and supporting them.”
Over the years the Border town has produced 61 Scotland internationalists and nine British & Irish Lions – with Edinburgh Rugby wing Darcy Graham being the latest player to don the thistle.
“When someone special comes around the people of Hawick like to get behind them,” Hogg said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to watch Darcy over the past few years and when he was still playing for Hawick High School. I watched him play in the Schools Cup Final at BT Murrayfield and they won that day and he was class.
“He’s always been rapid, he has always been skilful and over the past couple of years he has put a fair bit of muscle on and has adapted well to become a professional rugby player. I’m just excited to see what he can do during his rugby career. You can see how hard he works, and that really shows in his performances.
“I just want to see Hawick boys doing really well – Rory Sutherland is another player who is doing well. He has battled with injury over the past couple of seasons but he has been quality and a huge part of the Edinburgh team.”
It isn’t hard to find someone from the Borders in the Scotland camp – with Gregor Townsend, Greig Laidlaw and Lee Jones all hailing from the rugby heartland – and it is evident that the Borderers share a special bond, despite their town rivalries.
“The Borders boys are much the same, we like to try and stick together. To be honest, we are really the only people who understand what each other are saying [laughs]. Hopefully there will be a few more Borders boys in the future.”
“I just take each day as it comes and if I get more then that is great,” Ross Ford