Part 2 of Once A Warrior 2019 celebrating the careers of those who have left Glasgow across the 2018/19 season. After Stuart Hogg in Part 1 this time round it’s another Warrior Centurion who had a big impact for club and country.
Warrior number – 178
Appearances – 119
Tries – 17
Points – 85
Debut – Ulster at Ravenhill, 4th December 2009
Last game – Ospreys at Scotstoun, 25th January 2019
Defensively Alex was a massive influence on how Glasgow played the game. Quite simply there hasn’t been another centre in the Warriors’ history who was as consistently good over the ball. Even King Richard of Vernon (hallowed be his name) converted back row and all would have to cede this one. Eck’s ability to attack the breakdown and win possession (either directly or via penalties) was hugely influential in the way Glasgow’s coaches – and Gregor Townsend in particular – were able to set up their teams and the various roles and responsibilities.
Injuries are an issue for every rugby player but Alex was particularly unfortunate in this respect. His old mucker Pete Horne started out with the Wariors just before him (and had his own issues with injury, missing nearly the entire 2013/14 season) but has played 200 games in his top level career compared to 154 for Alex. That maybe gives some idea of the scale of of what Eck missed out on – in the region of 40 or 50 matches. It was the timing as well that hurt. At the height of his powers he was absent for Glasgow’s run to the PRO12 title as well as Scotland’s World Cup campaign in 2015.
There was still plenty of rugby played during Alex’s time with Glasgow though. He was part of a golden generation that made their debuts across a two year period from March 2009 through to February 2011. Starting with Warrior number 172, Peter Horne, and running through to Warrior number 191, Stuart Hogg, this cohort contained no less than a dozen future Warrior Centurions who would all be part of the squad that went on to win the PRO12 championship in 2015.
Alex was right at the heart of this group in terms of his contribution to the history of the Warriors. The start to his career with the club was a little unconventional though. For a player who almost embodies the prototypical modern centre (ie built pretty much like a back row) his early games weren’t in the midfield but rather on the wing. This wasn’t just some one-off to get him exposure to the top level either! His first four starts were all out wide and it was nearly 2 years on from his debut before he got his first shot in the number 13 jersey.
Once ensconced in the midfield Alex was a near enough automatic selection for Glasgow, when fit, across the next six seasons. He was also a Scotland regular and saw his name on the scoresheet on a reasonably frequent basis for club and country. The main party trick on these occasions was showing off his ability to cut lines even better than Hunter S. Thompson. This was probably the most significant of his scores, helping Glasgow to a famous win in Paris over Racing 92:
Building successful combinations within a team can have a huge impact on its success – or otherwise. Getting the midfield pairing right is a big call for the coaches. One of Alex’s greatest attributes was his ability to gel with a wide variety of different players. He was able to switch seamlessly between inside and outside centre to accommodate what was required for either Glasgow or Scotland. Allied to his unselfish nature and his capacity to either take the lead or supporting role as required and he was pretty much the ideal foil for any number of other centres. There were some unusual partnerships on the list of 16 he forged for the Warriors:
Mark Bennett – 24 starts together
Peter Horne – 24
Sam Johnson – 10
Graeme Morrison – 9
Huw Jones – 6
Nick Grigg – 5
Stuart Hogg – 3
Troy Nathan – 3
Federico Aramburu – 2
Gabriel Ascarate – 2
Sean Lamont – 2
Byron McGuigan – 2
Finn Russell – 2
Richie Vernon – 2
Glenn Bryce – 1
Fraser Lyle – 1
Alex’s time at the club spanned 3 different coaches and a few different eras. Glasgow’s stand off on the day Eck made his debut was Dan Parks. A little over 9 years later his final start was outside Adam Hastings. The former Selkirk player saw a lot of change and development across his Warriors’ career. He was a major contributor to that improvement and the success enjoyed by the club. There are some big boots to fill for the next generation of centres coming through at Glasgow.
Moving to – Brive