As is the case every year the Warriors’ faithful have had to bid a fond farewell to a number of departing heroes during 2018/19. Allow On Top Of The Moon to be your guide on a walk down memory lane for the goodbyes from last season.
Warrior number – 191
Appearances – 112
Tries – 30
Points – 220
Debut – Dragons at Firhill, 25th February 2011
Last game – Leinster at Celtic Park, 25th May 2019
Stuart may very well be the best Scottish player ever to feature for Glasgow Warriors. Twice Six Nations player of the year. A double British and Irish Lion. Nearly 70 Scotland caps under his belt at the age of just 27.
Only those with the most remarkable foresight could have confidently predicted such an illustrious career back in 2011 when, as a raw 18 year old, Hoggy took his first tentative steps into the Warriors’ first team. For four years the full back berth had been filled almost solely by the estimable Bernardo Stortoni (who started 90 of the previous 93 games at 15 for Glasgow prior to Stuart’s debut). The Argentinian’s retirement would leave a sizeable hole to be filled.
The teenager from Hawick took his bow on a rather drab night at Firhill against Sean Lineen’s bogey side, the Dragons during the latter half of the 2010/11 season. The draw was another disappointing result but Hoggy’s early touches were enough to bring a wee bit of cheer to the assembled Firhill faithful.
2011/12 was the season when things really started to take off for Stuart. He started 13 of the first 15 fixtures of the campaign at full back for Glasgow and began racking up the milestones, including:
Part of the first Glasgow team to beat Leinster in Dublin – 17th September 2011
First try – away to Cardiff Blues 1st October 2011
First hat-trick – away to Munster 14th April 2012
With just 17 Warriors’ appearances under his belt he was called into Scotland’s Six Nations squad. An early injury to Max Evans saw him get his first international action versus Wales where he was extremely unfortunate to not be awarded a try on debut (like most of his Scottish teammates luck has been in short supply for Hoggy at the Millenium Stadium!) The following week he started at full back for Scotland’s game against France and got that first international score. He would hold on to the number 15 jersey for the dark blues’ next 38 Six Nations matches until injury / Peter O’Mahony’s elbow intervened during the 2019 tournament.
In 2012/13 with Stuart firmly entrenched as Scotland’s first choice full back he entered into a bit of a timeshare arrangement for the same position at Glasgow. Peter Murchie and Hoggy would pretty much split the games at 15 on a 50/50 basis over the next five seasons until Pete’s retirement. The end of the campaign saw Stuart and Sean Maitland become the just the second and third Glasgow players to be selected for the British and Irish Lions after Gordon Bulloch in 2005.
The wobble in 2014 has been well documented with a red card in Cardiff, flirtations with Ulster and missing out on the playoffs making for a tough end to the season. It was all part of growing up in the public eye though, a result of being Scotland’s most high-profile rugby player. As the Wildhearts once sang “you’ve got to get through what you’ve got to go through, before you get what you want”
Stuart’s season of redemption in 2014/15 started with kicking the winning penalty against defending champions Leinster in Round 1 and ended with a scorching break to put Henry Pyrgos in for the third try in the PRO12 Grand Final. In between there were tries, booming kicks and a growing maturity that would lead him to become one of Scotland’s truly world class players.
Back to back Six Nations’ Player of the Championship awards in 2016 and 2017 were just part of the reason Hoggy was a shoo-in for a second Lions’ tour. It should have been the chance to put the exclamation point on his career to date. An opportunity to take on the best team in the world and show he belonged in such exalted company. Unfortunately his involvement in the tour was ended after an Irish elbow intervened (as it would again in 2019 – although at least the first occasion was accidental friendly fire!)
The residual impact of injuries and that long Lions’ season (allied to Scotland duty) denuded Glasgow of Stuart’s presence for much of Dave Rennie’s first season in 2017/18. He did manage to set a club record of tries in 5 consecutive appearances around this time. Unfortunately those games were spread over the space of 10 months which must have been tough to take for such a competitive player who loves to be at the heart of the action.
Hoggy’s final season in the black and blue saw him give everything he had for a fairy tale finish and a second title for Glasgow. He kicked things off against Connacht in Round 1 with a unique achievement in the club’s history:
At times the vibe was much like 2014/15 and although injuries interrupted his campaign on a couple of occasions Hoggy was able to finish up with his longest run of consecutive starts at full back for the club since his first full season. It’s a shame that his last game ended up with his head meeting the Parkhead turf and Leinster grinding out the win in the PRO14 final but there’s no doubt Stuart has left Warriors’ fans with an extensive highlights’ reel to look back on with great fondness. Hopefully he’ll return in the not too distant future to add some more memorable moments in a Glasgow shirt.
Moving to – Exeter