I didn’t want to go to the University of Edinburgh. After growing up in Edinburgh I was keen to go somewhere new but financial circumstances meant moving elsewhere wasn't possible. I played rugby and I knew that Edinburgh had a good team. Silver linings.
My experience playing rugby in High School wasn’t entirely positive. Playing club rugby at Murrayfield Wanderers was both the source of, and the escape from, bullying. At school I was labelled various stereotypes for playing rugby. I didn’t generally tell people I played, and I didn’t do the weights program that was given to me by the Scotland pathway set up, not wanting to conform to the labels I was under. Joining the university rugby team, EULRFC, I was met with attitudes completely contrasting what I’d experienced in school. Lifting weights and looking different was celebrated. Through the support of the team, without them even knowing it, I gained confidence in the way I looked and realised it was okay, even great, to be different. While body image is still something I struggle with, it's better than when I was at high school, and a lot of that I owe to the girls I trained with in the early uni days.
As well as gaining confidence, joining a uni rugby team you’re instantly granted 20 friends, who soon become your best friends. People from all walks of life and all different backgrounds; you’re accepted for who you are, whoever you are. Where else do you meet people who show up to committee meetings in only a dressing gown? On alumni day in first year, an ex-player told me “there’s nothing quite like uni rugby” and after four years I entirely understand that sentiment. You’re there on a limited time frame, so for the players who join at the same time as you, you go through the journey from being the newbies to the oldies on the team together, which happens faster than in any club team due to the cyclic nature of it.
What’s made Edinburgh so special to me is the journey that we’ve been on. Growing from a newly promoted team scraping together 15 players with a goal of not being relegated, to becoming BUCS Champions last year with an established 2s team, pushing for a 3s. We’re the only Scottish team in our British league, and as we meet at the train station every week for our away games, it feels like it’s us against the world. Lifting the BUCS cup at Twickenham last year, something that’s so insignificant to the rest of the world, meant everything to us. We have players that show up who have played for years, players that take up the sport at university who go on to achieve international honours, and players who you see more off the pitch than on it. In uni sport how good you are, is irrelevant, you’re all part of the same team.
There’s things on the pitch that I’ll never forget. Showing up in Newcastle having forgotten our strips and playing in our polo shirts with numbers written on our back in physio tape, almost beating Loughborough away in first year when we were massively the underdogs, being neck and neck with Durham at home and our fullback lobbing the ball 20m forward deep in our 22 – scrum to Durham on the 5m, shit. And even more off the pitch. Skinny dipping at Portobello beach after end of season dinner and the cold that followed, celebrating varsity far too hard on more than one occasion, the divisive midnight decision in Twickenham (Chelsea or the chippy), ceilidh-ing on Colonsay, arriving in Croatia with Czech currency and being robbed blind by the taxi driver, and everything that happened in THAT shot bar.
We’re at the knock out stage of the season now, when you don’t know which game will be the last. On Wednesday we take to Peffermill to play Exeter in the semifinal, which will be my last game at Peffermill, and possibly my last game in green. When I step on the pitch I’ll put absolute everything into that shirt for my teammates, and I know they'll do the same for me. Maybe we’ll win and go on to the final at Twickenham to defend our title, and maybe we won’t. But either way it’ll be happy tears at the end of the game.
Graduating this year, it’s not the lectures or the time in the library I’ll remember, it’s the team. I’ll miss our away days, I’ll miss Arthur’s Seat overlooking fortress Peffermill, I’ll miss Rugby People and all the support he has offered us, the time on the pitch and all the laughs off it. My advice for anybody out there is to replenish your fancy dress box and join a uni sports team, because you have no idea what it might lead to...