In the words of our latest RaboDirect Rising Star Grant Gilchrist – ‘2011 could not have started any worse but it couldn’t have finished any better’.
Just 12 months ago, Edinburgh second row Gilchrist was still recovering from a fractured ankle but his luck started to turn as he was selected for the John Macphail Scholarship, which allowed him to spend three months up close and personal with the stars of the Super 15 side Canterbury Crusaders.
Gilchrist was present for the earthquake in June that devastated Christchurch but says the experience of being taken under the wing of World Cup winning lock Sam Whitelock was ‘invaluable’ for his career.
Since then a fully fit Gilchrist has gone from strength to strength making 17 appearances in the RaboDirect PRO12 – the majority of which as an elite Development player.
But last month the 6ft 7in and 18st put pen to paper on his first professional contract at Murrayfield and here we speak to the 21-year-old about his experience in New Zealand and find out what he enjoys away from the rugby field.
When the earthquake struck, it was one of the most frightening experiences I have ever been through. I was on a pitch at the time and there was this big roar and then a loud bang – the rugby posts were shaking all over the place and the ground was like an ocean under my feet.
The second time it happened, I was in the stands and I have never moved so fast in all my life. Most of the Crusaders boys were in the showers and came running out naked which raised a laugh after everything calmed down.
Sam Whitelock was really good to me when I was out there. He was really approachable and had a lot of time for me. To get that advice from a World Cup winner was invaluable.
I have had my Citroen C2 for four years now. It is my most expensive purchase although that’s not saying a lot – it more or less just gets me from A to B which is enough for my needs.
The most famous person I have ever met would have been during my time at Canterbury Crusaders. I spent three months there and I got to meet Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams so take your pick from one of them. They just introduced themselves as normal blokes and were all really friendly.
I used to be an X Factor fan but I have fallen out of love with it a bit. Now my favourite reality show is probably I’m a Celebrity – purely for the bushtucker trial which is great TV.
My guilty diet pleasure is getting a Chinese after the game. There’s a great place quite a few of the boys from Edinburgh go but I will keep it secret so it doesn’t become crowded. Satay Chicken is usually my weapon of choice.
I would describe my best roommate as anyone who doesn’t snore. Unfortunately, naming no names, that doesn’t include most of the Edinburgh boys although I have also been accused of it.
My idea of rugby happiness is simply to be running hard onto the ball. Ball-carrying is what I love as a second-rower.
If I was to have a professional motto it would be simply to train hard. I am a firm believer you have to make the best of your ability by putting in the extra work. Whenever you think you are done there’s always ten more minutes’ work you can put in that will make you better in the long run.
On my day off you will often catch me playing FIFA on the X-Box. I share my flat with my girlfriend, so I often have to go round the other boys’ flats – Robin Hislop is a bit of a beast on it.