In this series of regular articles, our Melbourne-based correspondent meets the Positively Scottish Humans of Oz
Scotland began their Six Nations campaign last week with a thrilling win over Ireland, marking only their second opening-round victory in the competition’s history. Tomorrow, they face the formidable French in Paris, where they haven’t won a game since 1999. The Stade de France is an intimidating ground for any team, and Scots skipper Greig Laidlaw admitted this week it’s going to be “a tough, tough game”. Rugby fans around the country will be glued to their TVs, hoping Scotland can finally taste victory in the French capital. Joining them in the wee hours on the other side of the planet will be Angus Thomson (pictured above centre with some Scotland players at their hotel in Tokyo last year), a Montrose expat now living in Brisbane, whose joie de vivre comes from a lifetime’s commitment to the game.
I played a bit for the University of Stirling, then two years with Gordonians in Aberdeen. Then I went to France. I was there for a season, playing in first division for a team called Stade Niortais. In 1986, I came to Brisbane, Australia and played for Easts. I played with them for about 10 years all up, as well as a season with Santa Monica in the USA.
When I retired in about 1997, I started coaching. I did one season with lower grades and was then invited to coach at the University of Rosario, Argentina. When I got there, I was interviewed on TV and needed someone to translate for me, so I had to learn Spanish.
By the end of the season, I was interviewed again after a World Cup game and I did the whole thing in Spanish. I mean, I think I did, but we’d been watching the Scotland versus Argentina game, and drink had been taken, so I could have been talking in any language!
After that, I came back to Australia and did some coaching here, before helping the Cook Islands out with the Sevens and 15s. Two years ago, I got in touch with Guyana and helped them out as head coach for the Sevens in Hong Kong. I was actually born in Guyana. My dad was working there when it was still a British colony. I moved to Scotland when I was 11 months old.
I’ve followed the Scotland team around the world—on tour in Argentina, the USA and South Africa, the World Cup in New Zealand, and their tour in Australia, as well as in Japan last year—where we got a piper to come and pipe the players on for the first game. The players really loved that! And this year, Scotland are coming to Australia, so I’ll see them play in Sydney and Brisbane, and then go to Fiji for the final test. Really, it’s just an excuse to go and see places!
I decided to stay in Brisbane for the weather. I love the sun and Brisbane is just such an easy-going place. I’ve been very lucky here, because I arrived with no qualifications and no job. I went to TAFE (Technical and Further Education institution) for two years, and then I went to university and did a degree in business marketing. I started my own business just over 20 years ago—originally web design, then moved from there into web hosting.
I was initially making less than the dole, but I believed in what I was doing and had a long-term vision, and I made that come to fruition. I don’t know if I could have done that in Scotland. I believe Australia is one of the last great frontiers for opportunity. I’ve proven that you can come here with nothing and run a million-dollar business if you do the work.
The sky’s the limit over here for what you want to achieve. I’m not saying you can’t do it in Scotland—it could very well be possible—but given the choice I’d rather do it where I can sit by the pool in 30 degrees and just kick back.
People say I’m very lucky to be able to live the lifestyle I do now—to have a company that doesn’t require a lot of my time and that funds a lifestyle where I can go and indulge in some of the great pleasures of my life in rugby and travel, but I didn’t get here by accident. I’ve been very fortunate, but I worked very hard in the beginning to get the business going.
From day one, my objective was to make myself redundant so that it could eventually function without me. I’ve now been semi-retired for 10 years. It’s more of a lifestyle business that’s allowed me to follow the rugby tours—and I’ve used that as an excuse to see the world!