Rugby League World Cup: One true Scott hoping to prolong fairy tale against holders New Zealand
David Scott is the one born-and-raised Scot in the squad that has amazed the Rugby League World Cup by reaching the quarter-finals
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Thursday 14 November 2013
If you listen very carefully and the wind outside the Scotland team's hotel in Leeds is blowing in the right direction, you can hear a Scots accent.
Not only that, you can hear David Scott's accent, because the 20-year-old from Stirling is the one born-and-raised Scot in the squad that has amazed the Rugby League World Cup by reaching the quarter-finals against the holders New Zealand at Headingley; it's the man who puts the Scott into Scotland.
Playing on the wing against the formidable Kiwis at Headingley may seem like mission impossible, minnows against world champions, but it is the stuff of dreams for Scott. "To think I'll be on the pitch with Sonny Bill Williams and Isaac Luke," he says, wide-eyed.
But for him, Scotland might not be there at all. An hour into a final group game they had to win, the United States' Matt Petersen was on his way to a try in the corner that would have put them ahead. Scott lined him up and hit him with everything, knocking him into touch and dislodging the ball. It was a spectacular tackle. "It changed the game," says the Scotland coach, Steve McCormack. "But he's been fantastic ever since he came into the squad, which is why he'll be starting against New Zealand."
Scott got into rugby union with the local club in Stirling at the age of seven because his brother was playing. On television, though, he saw another brand of rugby. "I just thought, 'What a great game', and wanted to get involved with it. I managed to contact the Scottish Rugby League and they steered me towards the Easterhouse Panthers," he says.
"I was still playing union as well and looking for a contract with either game. Hull KR had a partnership with the Scottish league at the time. They came to watch, fortunately I had a good game and they signed me."
Originally a half-back, Scott made the switch to the outside backs when a winger got injured at Rovers and he was the only back on the bench. First-team opportunities were limited, however, there and on loan at Featherstone. Next season, he will be at Doncaster, while continuing with his degree at Hull University.
"I think I was brought into the World Cup squad for the experience and, hopefully, my inclusion will encourage other Scottish youngsters to try the game, because if they did they would love it like I do," he says.
Scott is not the only player in the squad born north of the border. Full-back Matty Russell was born in Irvine but brought up in Wigan and he too has been a revelation. There would have been another, if the Newcastle Knights' winger James McManus had not broken his foot before the tournament. He was joint-leading try-scorer in Australia's NRL last season, so his loss was a major blow. But it is his boots Scott is effectively filling. "It was unfortunate for Scotland but fortunate for me," Scott says.
Scott may be making a name for himself at this tournament but he is about to come up against some very well-known players, such as Manu Vatuvei and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. With respect to Petersen, it's a different ball game. "The way I read it is that it's 13 men against 13 men. We just have to go out there and play with pride and passion. That's what people have done so far, whether they qualify through their grandmother, grandfather or whatever," Scott says.
As the one fully qualified kilt-wearer, though, he finds himself in an anomalous situation. "Here I am playing for Scotland and I've still got everyone ripping into me for my Scots accent," he says.
"In an ideal world, there'd be more like him," says McCormack. "But there are some coming through."
For now, though, Scott carries the banner single-handedly. Realistically, the great adventure he has been proud to be a part of should end when the World Cup holders get their hands on them, but he relishes the sheer unlikelihood of it all.
"It's a great challenge to go out and play against the world's best. They're world champions and that's for a reason. But rather than us being worried about them, they should be worried about us."
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