Aitchison keen to end title-winning season on a high in Shield Final
For the past eight months, it has been their home. A fortress you could even say. Nine home games played, nine victories for Bruce Aitchison's team. But this Saturday's BT Shield Final against Carrick will present a conflicting sense of familiarity and the unknown.
Not since their famous BT Bowl triumph of 2005 have Murrayfield Wanderers Men's team grace the hallowed turf of the national stadium that grandiosely imposes itself over the back pitches a mere 100 yards away.
Wandies have done something unheard of for some years. They've comfortably secured promotion back to the National League after steam-rolling the BT East Region Division 1, winning 17 out of 18 matches, recording a solitary defeat away to North Berwick in December.
Last weekend's final round victory over Hawick Harlequins proved a warmup for arguably the Men's biggest game in their recent history.
Season-defining match at BT Murrayfield? Aitchison is having none of it.
“Not at all, the main aim was to get up to the National League and make us a more competitive club,” says Bruce.
“I told the players in May that we had two targets. This was one of them and the second was to have a chance to play on the big pitch. We've achieved both this season.
“I'm pleased for players like Fraser Strachan who has come from higher up the leagues to play for us and he's going to be able to play at BT Murrayfield. Murray Hastie has never had that chance and he's been phenomenal for us this year, as a development officer, a Captain and as a player.”
Saturday's Finals Day will have more significance for Scottish Rugby as a whole, with Murrayfield Wanderers becoming the first club side in Scotland to field two 1st teams on the main pitch ever.
While almost the entirety of Wandies players will have never taken to the main pitch competitively, the opposite is true for their opponents Carrick, who took the BT Shield title last year, upsetting Highland 34-27.
The runners-up of the West Division 1 this season are a largely unknown quantity for Wandies, but Aitchison, he's been doing his homework and knows a thing or two about a key player.
“One of their players, Steven Rabie was a student teacher at Tynecastle, so he's now propping for them and he works through there and it's his club,” Bruce said.
“They're a community club, where the badge means something to them, a lot of them have been there a long time and they won last year.
“They've been through this experience before and know how to handle it. And they're a good side, they've got some real strength, so for us it's just a case of one last dance.”
If there is any secret to the miraculous turnaround in form from previous years, the team does not divulge. The bare facts are that Wandies have time and again defied the odds, showing scarcely believable comebacks in games they looked certain to lose.
A Shield win on Saturday would mark an incredible return to the ecstasy of the last time they set foot inside Murrayfield, as opposed to staring from outside.
Aitchison concludes: “the boys have trained well, there's a good atmosphere around the squad. Of course there will be a few people nervous about Saturday but hopefully that just gets them more focused for the challenge ahead of them.
“We need to turn up and get our bit right. If we do that, then it's up to the players to perform.
“The chance to parade around that pitch is quite literally a dream come true for players, coaches and the club.”
Updated 20:57 - 27 Apr 2017 by arnie yule