Rob Harley | One of Our Own
249 appearances into his Glasgow Warriors career, the details of Rob Harley’s professional debut are still clearly etched in the flanker’s mind.
Ask him about his first time pulling on the Glasgow jersey and you may as well read the official match report.
“It was a night game at Firhill against Leinster,” remembers Harley.
“I was so proud to get on for the first time. Sean Lineen was in charge and a lot of guys played in that match who have gone on to make an impact for the club – guys like Ryan Wilson, DTH van der Merwe and Richie Gray were all involved.
“I came on with about 20 minutes to go and Duncan Weir slotted a kick to win it in the last minute or so.”
In fact, there’s only one detail in Harley’s recollection that isn’t quite accurate. In typically understated fashion, the former West of Scotland man has undersold his own contribution, having in fact replaced fellow debutant Wilson with half an hour of the match to play.
Eleven years on from that first outing at Firhill, the man who is so often the unsung influence on proceedings will take centre stage at the home of Scottish rugby, becoming the first Warrior – and only the second Scottish club representative after Allan Jacobsen – to reach 250 professional appearances.
It’s a truly remarkable milestone for a player who has not only embodied the Warrior spirit, but who has been front and centre for every step of the club’s journey over the last decade.
“When I arrived, we did our weights in one place, our training in another, then games at another place again,” explained Harley.
“It was nothing like it is now. You didn’t have a set home during the week and we definitely didn’t have the same crowds coming along.
“We built an identity, though – we built what it means to be a Warrior and to play for this club. Having a home and a stadium helped that massively.
“These days, when we run out in front of a packed Scotstoun and the 7,500 or so screaming fans, that shows how much this club means to its fans and the city.”
Indeed, in a season like no other, there’s a parallel to be drawn between Harley’s early days as a Warrior and the 2020/21 playing contingent. For Harley, Ryan Wilson, Ruaridh Jackson and Duncan Weir in 2010, read Ross Thompson, Rufus McLean, Ollie Smith and Tom Lambert in 2021; the young guns are making their impact felt once more.
“That’s really exciting for the squad, because these guys have exploded onto the scene,” said Harley.
“It’s great for both the present and the future of the club. Seeing the talent of the young players is great and the way that they play the game certainly seems very different to the way I started!
“It’s exciting to think about where these guys can take us in the future, for sure.
On to this weekend, then, and it’s somewhat fitting that the proud Glaswegian makes club history in a clash with his team’s oldest rivals. Familiar foes even before a year that has seen the two sides face off on five occasions prior to this weekend, Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh have had some titanic tussles over Harley’s spell with the club.
Having helped the Warriors regain the 1872 Cup in a ferocious encounter at Scotstoun last time out, the Scotland international is expecting nothing less under the floodlights at BT Murrayfield on Saturday night.
“For me, the Edinburgh games are still the biggest fixtures on the calendar,” said Harley.
“It’s funny, because you know a lot of the Edinburgh players and get along with a lot of them on a personal level, but when it comes to the derby it’s blood, guts and rivalry. Any friendship goes out of the window!
“We’re fully expecting Edinburgh to bring even more aggression this weekend. We have to find it within ourselves to raise our levels even more and we’re going in expecting a full-on battle.
“Getting to make my 250th appearance against Edinburgh probably makes it that little bit more special, to be honest. These games mean a lot to me.”
You can guarantee Harley won’t be easing up any time soon after the full-time whistle blows on Saturday night, either. Still just 30, the fire to push himself and the club forward still burns as brightly as it did on that September night at Firhill eleven years ago.
“It still means just as much now as it did a decade ago,” said Harley.
“I’ve been lucky enough to achieve a lot with this club, I’ve seen huge development both for me and for this club, but I still want to kick on and achieve even more.
“You have to take each game as it comes because it’s silly to look too far ahead. I guess in a general sense, though, it’d be nice to push the record up as high as I can get it.
“In some ways that’s out of my hands, though – I just have to keep training hard and improving my own game, get a bit of luck with injuries and selection and see what happens.”
One thing is for certain, however. Whilst BT Murrayfield will be empty of spectators for the occasion, you can guarantee a roar from the Warrior Nation watching at home on Saturday night.
He’s Rob Harley. He’s one of our own.