Although Saturday 22nd April 2017 rolled around just like any other Saturday match day for me, today was no ordinary day. Today I was looking after not one, but two teams on Murrayfield’s main pitch. This was the first time in Scottish Cup Finals Day history that two teams from the same club will both be competing for silverware.
I arrived at the stadium early, as usual to ready my kit bags for the impending matches. I felt calm, but could sense nervousness and trepidation amongst some of the players. This to some was just another game, but to others this meant many things to them. Their first Scottish Cup game, and to others their last ever competitive match after years of putting their bodies on the line for both club and country.
As a group, we all headed over to the main stadium and past security. As we walked along the tunnel area, we could hear the crowd getting excited for the first game of the day (Portobello vs. Blairgowrie). Surprisingly, it was quite a racket that was being created by the crowd. I told myself this was just another game, and to get my head down and get on with the job. I helped the girls get ready with pre-event massages and various strappings in the rather sizeable changing room.
Come game time, we were waiting in the tunnel as a group whilst the teams were being read out over the stadium tannoy system. The players are held for an unusually long time whilst this is happening. As this is all going on, you can see and hear the captains of each respective team talking to their charges trying to instill the right amount confidence and energy into them.
Finally, we are given a count down to emerging out the tunnel. “It’s game time” I said to myself. I wait for all the players to pass and I head out with the other medic for the team. We are split to go one to each side. I am given the near side with the crowd to my back. It felt a raucous environment, though on reflection I feel it was more my nerves playing tricks on me.
As the ball is kicked off to start the game, it seems as though no time at all has passed and it is half time already. Same can be said for the second half. It could have all passed in the blink of an eye.
Exhausted and deflated, a defeated Wanderers team head back to the changing room. A team talk is again given by Scotland Captain Lisa “Shorty” Martin, Club Captain Sarah “Quicky” Quick, the coaches and various other leading members of the team. Tears were a plenty, but I’m sure not one of the girls regretted or wished that they’d missed the game. The girls had done themselves proud and had left everything out there on the pitch.
After all the post-event massages, helping various people with their strappings and injuries, my attention had to turn to the men’s team. My team. Myself and Georgia, club physiotherapist headed back over to our clubhouse to replenish our kit bag supplies, grab a quick bite to eat and meet up with the team. The routine was the same as last time in needing to collect yet more passes to get past security, head over as a group and into the same changing room. The cleaning staff had done an excellent job in turning the room around in such a quick time.
Just as myself and Georgia start the strapping and pre-game routine, I am called away by the antidoping scientists. I am required to select two people at random from my team, and ensure that it is done in a fair and honest fashion. Player numbers are assigned to pieces of paper and it is done in a similar manner to pulling names out of a hat with the selection being made by myself.
By the time I come back, most of the preparation has finished and some of the boys have already headed out to the back pitches at the stadium to warm up. I head out with them and leave Georgia to finish up with the few stragglers. At this point in a game day, it is usually the calm before the storm. I have done all I can to help the team, and it is now down to the players.
Chatting with various friends, colleagues and acquaintances at the side of the pitch, time soon passed and it was almost game time. By this time, it was almost 5pm and it was starting to feel like a rather long time. Going back into the stadium, we could hear the climax to the game before us (Scottish Cup Final between Ayr and Melrose). The sound was incredible. I can only imagine how loud it must be for a 6 Nations match.
I gather my gear as well as my thoughts before heading down the tunnel, I feel that a lot of the players must be doing the same. This is a new experience to every single one of them and the tension is almost palpable.
Game time comes around much quicker this time, or so it seems. Again, the game passes very quickly and without any major injuries. Again, the game sadly ends in defeat. Tears once again can be seen on many a face, but pride is also felt. There is never any shame in losing to a reigning champion.
Back in the changing room, I am once again summoned by antidoping to supervise the fairness of the testing, and also to help somebody with listing their supplements. This also served as a pleasant break from the intensity of the games as it is rather taxing on the brain due to level of concentration required. Again, heading back to the changing room, most things have been dealt with by Georgia which I am immensely grateful for.
After everyone is dealt with, it is time for me to get showered and changed myself as after the game, it is time for dinner with the boys courtesy of the SRU. Free food and drink. Surely two things every rugby player loves. Laughs are shared between the two teams as the players mingle, and a few stars are seen talking with the players. We were graced with the presence of Rio 2016 silver medalist sevens player Mark Bennett, Scotland and Lions player Finn Russell, and Scotland players Fraser Brown and Ali Price.
Looking back on this wonderful day, I am filled with pride that not one but two of our teams managed to make national finals, and we are the first team to do so. I also feel pride for the part I played I helpful both teams make it there. All in all, it was a great and memorable day. It is just a shame the results didn’t go our way, but I feel on a different day, we could have won both pieces of silverware.