IT WAS the detour that nearly became a dead end. When Cammy Hutchison left Scottish Rugby’s academy system for Stade Nicois, the idea was that he would return home stronger and more experienced thanks to some playing time in the rough and ready world of French rugby. Instead, he came back without a contract, and with the distinct feeling that his dream of playing professionally was over.
But that was then. Two years on from that season in Nice, and with spells back at university and in full-time non-sporting employment behind him, Hutchison at 23 is more than ready to make up for lost time.
After playing well enough for Heriot’s in Super6 to attract the attention of the Edinburgh coaches, the inside centre made a couple of appearances in the Rainbow Cup at the tail-end of last season. That led to the offer of a full-time contract for the former Scotland age-group international, who is confident he can now challenge for a regular place in the team’s midfield.
“My mindset coming back from Nice was that I was ready to call it a day,” Hutchison recalled yesterday after a training session at Edinburgh’s pre-season training camp in Largs. “I was thinking about what was going to be my next chapter. When I found out I wasn’t getting kept in [the Scottish system] after Nice I became comfortable and happy with the level I had played at. Scotland Under-20s is still better than a lot of guys do.
“I went through a lot of dark times in France not really knowing what I was doing. Super6 came up and [former Heriot’s coach] Ciaran Beattie got in touch and that really sparked my need to get back enjoying rugby. It wasn’t about playing for Edinburgh or getting a pro contract, it was just about enjoying the game.
“With that came a couple of good performances and I felt I had a really strong second half to the season. But there was still no call from Edinburgh, so I felt that that door was closed. I had to go and get a real job. Last October I was back at uni, coaching at my local school, playing for Heriot’s and working for Carlyle Associates, the executive search company.”
Then, as so often happens in team sport, someone else’s misfortune became Hutchison’s lucky break. When both Chris Dean and George Taylor were ruled out by injury, the then Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill needed to look no further than Goldenacre for a ready-made, up-to-speed replacement for the No 12 jersey.
“It was in November when Deano and George both got injured in the same game,” Hutchison continued. “Within the space of 24 hours I was sitting in my company office when I got a call from the team manager asking if I could come in, get a PCR test and do 10-day isolation. That flipped everything on its head.
“I was in and out over Christmas and then I managed to get some game time in May and June. It’s been an absolute rollercoaster to get to this point – but I think that only plays in my favour.”
Who to play in midfield has been a vexed question for Edinburgh’s coaches for some time. Back in 2018 Cockerill earmarked Matt Scott and Mark Bennett as his principal pairing, only for injuries to deny them the chance to establish a solid partnership. Dean, Taylor and James Johnstone have all been regular and reliable performers more recently, while summer signing James Lang looks like starting the season as new head coach Mike Blair’s first-choice inside centre.
“There are quite a few centres kicking around now, so it is massively competitive,” acknowledged Hutchison, who can play at outside centre as well as inside. “I think the most important element of that is that it is healthy competitiveness. It’s not a bitter competitiveness.
“I’m lucky because I’ve got internationals I can try to pick the brains of – guys like James Lang, who has played international rugby and with Harlequins who have just won the Premiership playing a great brand of rugby. If my opportunity pops up then I want to be there ready to take it.”
Hutchison is still on a partnership deal with Heriot’s, so when not selected by Edinburgh he will still be assured of regular rugby. But, having nearly been lost to the pro game for good, he is above all determined to make his mark in Blair’s team, and to put his adverse experiences to good use.
“Sometimes I feel I’m a bit older than 23 with the rollercoaster journey I’ve been on,” he concluded. “I’ve been abroad, been in the academy – I feel like a fairly experienced 23-year-old coming into the environment. Although it’s taken me a long time, 23 is not past it and I still have a few years to reach my peak and learn what I can.”