Once A Warrior 2016: Part 1 – Departure of the Jedi

What could you achieve in 4,700 minutes? That’s the equivalent of 78 hours or 9.8 working days – not much time to make an impact. In the world of rugby though it’s long enough to leave your mark on hundreds of players, coaches and staff and thousands of fans. In those 4,700 minutes James Eddie built himself a career at Glasgow to look back on and be very proud of. Few could match the popularity Jedi earned the hard way – by putting everything he had into the game day in day out at training and every single time he pulled on the black and blue jersey.

James William Eddie joined the Glasgow Warriors on an apprentice contract at the start of the 2005/06 season, retiring over a decade later in April 2016. There were exactly 10 years and 1 month between his first and last games for the club – and the teams on those two occasions illustrate how much things changed over the course of Jedi’s career:

jedi-teams.jpg

Debuting during that rarest of occasions – a Warriors’ win at Thomond Park – James must have thought this pro rugby thing was easy! Unfortunately victories like that were a rarity in a season that saw Glasgow finish dead last in the league but would usher in the biggest transformation in the club’s history. Coach Sean Lineen took over, bringing in captain Al Kellock from Edinburgh and new blood across the squad, first from outside the club and then more regularly with young players moving through the ranks. Throughout this period Jedi was one of the ever presents, featuring for the club in every campaign as they moved from bottom of the heap to playoff contenders.

With the arrival of the Townsend era, James found himself cast as one of the senior pros, given his experience and long service, a role he has filled with aplomb. Throughout his time he’s shown an exemplary attitude in how he’s approached all the key elements of a professional rugby player’s job – training; playing; community projects; and engaging with the fans. In fact Jedi has been a favourite with the supporters pretty much since day one of his time with Glasgow. Sponsored by the club’s unofficial fansite glasgowwarriors.com in season 2007/08, he has been a friendly and accessible presence who always has time for a chat, an autograph or a photo (in fact there must be hundreds of Jedi selfies out there – could be the next big Twitter trend?!?)

Some of the numbers behind Jedi’s career are impressive enough on their own:

One of the Warrior Centurions, he made 126 appearances for the club.

His 11 seasons are more than any other player has managed in Glasgow’s 20 year history.

He has seen no less than 155 other players feature for the Warriors during his time at the club (see the image at the top of this article for all of Jedi’s teammates).

He even managed to score seven tries during his time with the Warriors – a respectable return for a forward who was there to do the dirty work. Although there were more spectacular efforts (usually when playing the Blues for some reason!) none were more crucial than this match-winner against Ulster in a flying start to the 2013/14 league season:

 

But even here at On Top Of The Moon where stats are revered it’s clear that figures can’t really sum up the impact the big man had on the club.

The one game that encapsulated what Jedi brought to the Warriors’ squad was the 2nd leg of the 1872 Cup in the 2008/09 campaign. This was during the years when Glasgow were scrapping and fighting to climb up the table and cast off the tag of league whipping boys. In the first leg at Murrayfield the men from the West had turned in possibly the flattest performances ever witnessed by the Warriors’ faithful and been humbled by 36-3 by their fiercest rivals (only Leinster managed to inflict a heavier defeat in almost 200 Pro 12 games under Al Kellock). The team needed to find some fighting spirit and some physicality for the return leg just a week later. Coach Sean Lineen turned to James Eddie to provide it. Jedi was like a man possessed at Firhill. Every carry made extra yards through the contact. Every tackle drove back a luridly-shirted Edinbugger. He made a huge contribution to turning around the previous week’s embarrassment to allow Glasgow to turn things around to at least win the second leg.

That performance in the 1872 Cup exemplified the abrasiveness, the edge to James’ play that elevated his game and endeared him to the Warriors’ fans. It was almost always channeled in the right direction though – across his career he was only yellow carded twice despite spending most of his time at the heart of the action confronting opponents at tackle after tackle and ruck after ruck.

It wasn’t just Glasgow through where he made a contribution though. Jedi’s adventures with Scotland 7s took him around the world – Dubai, Las Vegas, Wellington, George, the Gold Coast, Hong Kong – it reads like the location-hopping of a playboy millionaire! 7s also provided one of the biggest occasions of James’ career when he was part of the squad that played in front of 40,000 fans at Ibrox during the Commonwealth Games. There were also selections for Scottish representative sides and the Barbarians during their 125th anniversary celebrations:

Scotland 7s
Scotland A
Scotland u21
Scotland u19
Scotland u18

Barbarians
Gael Force

Aberdeen Grammar
Ayr
Currie
GHA
Glasgow Hawks
West of Scotland

It is the Warriors though that were always at the heart of Jedi’s rugby career. He saw the highs (including beating Toulouse; wins in the RDS, Thomond Park, Ravenhill, Liberty Stadium; and being part of the Pro 12 Championship winning squad) and the lows (finishing bottom of the league; the often interminable wait on contracts being confirmed). Throughout it all he confronted every game with the same pride in the jersey he wore and willingness to give everything he had for his teammates, coaches and supporters.

So it’s farewell and thank you very much to James “Jedi” Eddie. It was always a privilege to watch him play!

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