Once A Warrior 2020 part 4: Jonny

Jonny Gray

Warrior number – 216

Appearances – 110
Tries – 12

Debut – Edinburgh at Scotstoun, 21st December 2012
Last game – Sale at the AJ Bell Stadium, 18th January 2020

The king of tackle completion. The prince of percentages. The dauphin of dropping fellas. The emir of…you get the picture.

During Jonny’s time with Glasgow:

  • He played 7,992 minutes.
  • He attempted 1,494 tackles.
  • That’s an average of 15.0 tackles per 80 minutes played.

Bear in mind Jonny can only tackle when the ball is in play (c. 40% of game time) and the other team has possession (c. 50% of ball in play time). That means roughly a tackle for every 64 seconds on defence. Add in rucks hit. Add in a similar burden in terms of carrying with the Warriors in possession. Jonny’s workrate was frankly inconceivable!

In the PRO12/14 his career tallies are 993 tackles made and 13 missed. The same number of people have walked on the moon (12) as have evaded a Jonny Gray tackle in the league (Cardiff Blues’ Lloyd Williams is the only player to beat him twice in the tournament).

There is so much more to Jonny’s contribution to Glasgow than just his tackle stats though. He was one of a new generation of homegrown talents coming through at the beginning of the Gregor Townsend era and arrived in a side which had begun to consistently bring through young talent and allow exceptional players to flourish even as teenagers. He was one of the city’s own, having come through Cambuslang and Hamilton on his journey to becoming a full-time professional, making his debut just seven months after big brother Richie played the last game of his first spell with the Warriors.

Jonny’s first ever start at Scotstoun came in a win over Leinster. The 19 year old announced himself in some style with an outstanding performance that won him the Man of the Match award and confirmed to even the most pessimistic of Glasgow fans that here was a player very bit as good as his brother – maybe even better?

Over the last eight seasons the younger Gray has notched up six Man of the Match medals – not too shabby at all in a position that rarely grabs the attention of those making the awards (also five more than big brother Richie…) Twelve tries is also a respectable return – and again ahead of his older sibling in terms of scoring rate (a try every 9.2 games versus a try every 11.8 games).

He was a leader. Not in a noisy, in your face way but quietly setting standards and demonstrating the level of commitment and effort required to be a true Warrior. The next generation of locks will know all about the sheer graft that will be required as they try to replace a man who has been a key component of the Warriors’ success in the last eight years.

He reserved some of his finest performances for games against Munster. He was outstanding in a rare win at Thomond Park in 2014 – the top carrier, top tackler and barging over for a try for good measure. That was followed up a month later with 25 carries in the PRO12 semi-final at Scotstoun (10 more than any other Warrior). He was at it again leading from the front – and notching another try – in December 2014 when Munster were vanquished once more at Scotstoun. Of course he was also the perfect foil for the freewheeling stylings of Leone Nakarawa in Glasgow’s greatest day when the PRO14 title was lifted at the Kingspan in May 2015.

There was also that time in 2019 when he casually busted out 43 tackles in a single game away to Leinster. It’s worth noting that a couple of Jonny’s teammates who shall remain nameless* played over 1,000 minutes that season and completed less tackles than the younger Gray did in that 80 minute performance…

Lock is a position where Scottish rugby has a solid conveyor belt of young talent coming through. In the absence of Jonny Gray though anybody looking to drive the Warriors forward in the boiler room is going to need a truly enormous capacity for work; a fearsome competitive drive; excellence at the setpiece; and an ability to lead from the front even in the most challenging of circumstances. There are some big boots to fill and Glasgow will miss him.

Ultimately I think Kyle Reese said it best:

“Listen. Understand. That Terminator Jonny Gray is out there. It can’t be reasoned with, it can’t be bargained with. It doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear and it absolutely will not stop. Ever. Until you are dead tackled.”

Moving to – Exeter

* Hoggy and Jacko

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