SATURDAY’S match against Watsonians marked the final appearance in a Selkirk jersey of utility forward Neil Darling, without question one of the finest players ever to pull on the club’s navy jersey.
He led the team out for a final time after spending the morning helping to clear the pitch of over three inches of snow.
Above all else, it is this unquestioning commitment which has, over the years, brought out the best in Darling’s Philiphaugh team-mates, brought so much enjoyment each Saturday to Selkirk’s loyal band of supporters and brought so much success to the club as a whole.
Speaking to The Wee Paper after Saturday’s match, an emotional Darling said: “I wouldn’t swap my time playing here for Selkirk for anything. It has been just brilliant and I have enjoyed every minute.
“I wish them all the best for the future.”
Known affectionately by his team-mates as the Lilliesleaf Legend, Darling made his 1st XV debut coming off the bench in Selkirk’s Premiership game against Kelso at Poynder Park on Saturday, September 1, 2001 – a match the Souters won 32-30 thanks to Guy Blair’s last-minute touchline conversion.
His first senior start came against Fife Southern in a cup fixture at Harley Street, Rosyth, on November 3 the same year –Selkirk winning the tie 48-25.
Almost 12 years and 264 matches later, he has decided to call it a day. During that time he has scored 10 tries and has captained the side for three seasons, leading the team to back-to-back Border League titles in 2008 and 2009.
He was also skipper when Selkirk won promotion to Premier One in March 2008, thanks to a courageous 15-0 victory over Biggar in the Hartreemill mud.
A multiple winner of the Boag Cup as Selkirk RFC player of the Year, Darling also skippered Selkirk to consecutive Kings of the Sevens titles in 2007 and 2008.
“I always said I would stop when I reached 30,” said Darling, who has quit after becoming a mobile shepherd.
“I won’t be going away all together. I’ll leave it for a wee while and then maybe come down and get into the coaching side. I’m not going to throw myself in at the deep end though. I’m going to just have some rest, enjoy myself and then I’ll see what happens from there.”
Following Saturday’s match, Darling received a commemorative quaich from current skipper Gavin Craig surrounded by his team-mates, coaches and assistants in the home dressing room.