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Dark days inspired Kellock success

Published 01/06/2015

Glasgow Warriors captain Al Kellock bowed out of professional rugby as a Guinness Pro12 champion
Glasgow Warriors captain Al Kellock bowed out of professional rugby as a Guinness Pro12 champion

Retiring Glasgow skipper Al Kellock endured his fair share of dark days during nine years as a Warrior - but he insists their Guinness Pro12 triumph made each and every one of them worthwhile.

The 33-year-old left the best until last as he bowed out of the professional game a champion.

But the 56-cap former Scotland lock admits not all of his 155 appearances for the Scotstoun outfit were as sweet as Saturday's 31-13 win over Munster in Belfast, which saw Gregor Townsend's side became the first Scottish team to lift the trophy.

On his first day as an ex-pro, he reflected on the journey he has taken since returning to his home city from Edinburgh in 2006 a nd revealed his belief that the knocks he and his team took back in those early days when they were Celtic League strugglers were the making of their weekend success.

Kellock, who will now take up an ambassadorial role with Glasgow, said: "I was talking to my wife this morning and we looked back to nine years ago when I had the chance to come back to Glasgow from Edinburgh.

"At that point, it wasn't a team that was flying high at the top of the league. Edinburgh were doing well though and I was doing well there.

"But I knew coming here I'd get to take on a leadership role, which was important if I wanted to progress and get into the Scotland side.

"Now sitting here having played my last game for the club with the trophy beside me, I can say, 'Yeah, that decision was right'.

"But of course you have dark, dark spells. Losing games, being left out of the team and injury are the three hardest things any rugby player has to deal with and I've had my fair share of them all.

"There has never been a time where I questioned the decision to come back but there were times that were really hard.

"I remember losing down at the Dragons during my first year. It was six months in, a miserable night with pouring rain. I think we lost 5-3 [it actually ended 13-3].

"Our former coach Sean Lineen went ballistic at the end of the game about the lack of effort. I was sitting there as the new captain, aged 24, and I felt we tried hard but just weren't good enough.

"He left the changing room and I went after him and what an argument we had. We had to be held apart. But it ended up being great for our relationship.

"There have been so many tough times like when you find out about people's character - but build character too.

"I honestly believe the reason we are sitting here as Pro12 champions is because we have come from somewhere and edged forward bit by bit."

Saturday's final was the culmination of years of hard work put in by Lineen and Townsend.

Successive semi-final failures were followed by last year's final defeat to Leinster.

They refused to be deterred, though and took the next step as they swatted Munster aside at the Kingspan Stadium.

Kellock will now step aside to leave a new generation of Warriors to lead Glasgow forward.

Jonny Gray was once his second-row student but is now showing he is future Scotland captain material, while the likes of Stuart Hogg, Mark Bennett, Finn Russell and Adam Ashe are equally as exciting.

But Kellock insists the stunned joy of landing their first title must now be followed by a determined thirst for more.

"So few Scottish players have ever won something at this level," he said. "That shows how special this season has been. That and the fact we have built up to it.

"We were not in a position to win this seven years ago, we were not even in a position to win this four years ago. But we have gradually improved and now w e have done something incredibly special.

"But there is no reason why it has to be special from now on. We have guys like Hoggy, Mark Bennett and Finn who have only been here for three or four years.

"They've been to a semi-final, semi-final, final and are now winners. All they know at this club is how to win.

"But they need old guys like me reminding them how fragile it is and how quickly it can disappear."

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