Warrior Roots | Richie Simpson
Richie William Simpson, was born in Ayrshire in 2003. He was raised in Ayr itself and is a product of Ayr Rugby Club.
Rugby wasn’t his first sport. Growing up he started out playing cricket, following in his dad’s footsteps. But, coming from a sports-loving family the stand-off would try any-and-every sport growing up. This eventually lead to him picking up the oval ball.
In August 2023, Richie signed a partnership contract with Glasgow Warriors, which sees him sharing his time between the Scotstoun club and the FOSROC Super Series side Ayrshire Bulls. In 2024, he is determined to earn his Glasgow Warriors professional debut.
In the latest instalment of Warriors Roots Richie Simpson shares his story.
GOING OUT ON MY OWN
“My first memory of rugby would be in primary three or four. I played a lot of cricket when I was young and one of the boys I played with, his Dad coached Ayr minis, so he asked me to go along to the open day. I’ve been going to Millbrae ever since.
“When I was younger, I just played any sport, everything. Then at school I needed to decide what I wanted to play so I stuck with cricket and rugby. Then, when winter came, I just went with rugby because most of my friends played, and it was bigger at my school. I didn’t start taking it seriously until about fifth or sixth year in high school. Back then, I played because I enjoyed it.
“I am the first person in my family to be involved in rugby. Dad was a big cricketer and I played some football – my mum’s dad was involved with football. I went out on my own in that sense, choosing rugby.
“However, I couldn’t have progressed without my parents. Mum used to take me all over the place to play rugby and she and my dad have come to watch me whenever they can. They’ve even travelled to London to watch me play.
Growing up at Ayr Rugby Club in the 2010s there was a lot to be celebrated. The club won their very first men’s Premiership title in 2009, followed by further league successes in 2013, 2017 and 2019. During that period there were two league/cup doubles in 2013 and 2019, and a further two Cup wins in 2010 and 2011. There was also a host of players coming through who would go on to earn caps for Scotland.
Richie continued: “I remember when I was younger going to the games at Ayr on a Saturday and there were such big crowds. I’d be a ball boy or a mascot and Finn Russell and Mark Bennett were playing, and there I was running on with the tee. That was cool.
“I started at Ayr minis, then I played at Wellington School in Primary 7. At that time Wellington and Ayr Rugby Club did a merger, so the junior teams are Ayr/Wellington. I played with them until under-18 level and then I started training with the Glasgow and the West development pathway, that’s where I played Glasgow Warriors under-18s against Saracens in London.
“After COVID I started playing with the senior men’s club team for a year. I then went on to train with the Bulls. From there I stepped up to an Ayrshire Bulls contract, did Scotland 20s and now I’m here. I still played cricket up to the point I signed for Bulls. Games were on Saturdays, it got to the point, with the Super 6 being in the summer, that I couldn’t do both. I was enjoying rugby more by that point and then I was being paid for it too, so I couldn’t argue with that!”
A LOVE FOR THE GAME
As Richie discusses his rugby journey, it’s clear how much his enjoyment of a sport drives him to work hard.
He said: “Ayr’s a club that has got a good combination of on field and off field fun. Everyone gets on as a team and we spend a lot of time together away from the rugby. The club has been successful too, who doesn’t like winning, you know what I mean. If you win, you’ll have fun!”
There’s also the air of a player who doesn’t easily feel pressure, yet in equal measure he’s not someone that will take the opportunities that come his way for granted.
He continued: “I haven’t had pressure on me, I would say because none of my family have been involved with rugby. Mum and Dad don’t really know if I’m playing well or badly and there hasn’t been people to critique me. I really started taking rugby seriously at under-18s so in that sense I’ve never really felt pressure to be good.
“I want to make the most of the opportunities when they come and enjoy the journey as much as I can. Just over a year ago I was playing Ayr club team, and now I’m here, in a professional set up, so I don’t want to look to far ahead. Also, the last time I played I didn’t know I’d be out for six months. So, the first target for me is to get back playing, then I’d like to play a game for Glasgow. I’d like to get back playing with Bulls and then make my debut with Warriors and see where it goes from there.”
MAKING IT FUN
As Richie continues his story, and focusses on the people who have made the biggest impact on his career to date, his enjoyment of the game comes up again.
Talking about his coaches at Ayr, he continued: “There are people who make you enjoy it more! Such as Billy Lynch and Frazer Climo who have had a big influence on me.
“Frazer Climo has been a big help to me over the years. He took the Ayr Junior Academy, the first and second year I was there, then as I went into the senior team he coached me, I even played a few games with him. Finally, when I stepped up to the Bulls, he was my coach there. He’s been with me the whole time; I just can’t get rid of him!
“Billy Lynch was a fun guy, he made us laugh and created an environment that was fun to be around. We had a good year in 2020, we finished top of the table in the Shogun Conference, winning all 13 of our games. That was a good team to be a part of and Billy added to that.
“My mum has been influential, driving me me all over the place. I want to keep doing well to make her proud.
“My parents are proud of me regardless of what I achieve. Dad likes to critique my kicking. He used to take me out when I was younger and we’d do drop kicks at Rozelle Park in Ayr. He’d make me kick off right and left, you know Johnny Wilkinson-esque. He learned that from football to be strong on both legs. I’m not too sharp on my left right now.
“Also, here at Glasgow there’s people helping me to develop. Everyone has really welcomed me into the environment. I know Tom Jordan well from Ayr, so I have been picking up with him for some tips. Also, everyone’s eager to dish out some information.”
LESSONS FROM CRICKET
It’s clear Richie not only feeds off of what people can teach him, but experiences too; being willing to try things out in order to learn.
“I like golf, and play down at Bellisle in Ayr sometimes. I just play with my friends, socially and we have a laugh. I did play a few competitions when I was younger, but I didn’t like that scene.
“Also, cricket has taught me how to manage my time as best I can. It is different, the days are much longer, it’s not necessarily as hard, but it takes up a lot of time. That prepares you for coming into a professional environment where you are spending most of your time doing one sport.
“When I played cricket, I played a few two-day games. Sometimes you go out first ball and you’re spending the full day stewing over small mistakes, and I wouldn’t hear the end of it from Dad. Cricket teaches you to narrow down your mistakes.
“Rugby you have quicker time to react to mistakes and change them. Cricket, you must wait a week and then the same thing could happen. Rugby you need to play on, not dwell on the mistake, and adapt.”
There is no doubt Richie Simpson is a player who is motivated. Also, he is someone the Warrior Nation can look forward to seeing don the Warriors jerseys in due course. But, most importantly for him, it’s about working hard and enjoying the journey.
He concluded: “I’m excited to be here. This year I’ve chosen to take a break from my university studies – doing Finance, Investment and Risk – and to be in this new environment for me. I’m going to enjoy it as much as possible.”
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