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It's been a memorable few weeks for Doncaster Knights’ Dougie Flockhart, who broke the club points-scoring record and racked up a 200th appearance in all competitions.
But it could all have been so different for the winger, who has played international rugby league, used to coach the youngsters at Manchester City Football Club and was never meant to be a goal-kicker.
An accidental goal-kicker
On the final day of 2016 Flockhart became the Knights’ all-time leading scorer, overtaking Rob Liley with a 14-point haul against Richmond to take him to 1,032 points in all.
But when he first arrived at Castle Park, Flockhart wasn’t even a kicker, and it was only a sin-binning for fly-half James Brooks back in 2010 that led to him becoming the most prolific player in the club’s history.
“I wasn’t always a goal-kicker, I only really started goal-kicking three years into my time at Doncaster," recalls Flockhart.
“In my second year in a game against Nottingham, James Brooks was the 10, and got a yellow card.
“We got a penalty just behind the 10-metre line and the captain pointed straight for the posts. The tee was coming on and we didn’t have a goal-kicker. I said I’d kick it, although I’d never kicked before in a professional game, only in schoolboy games but not since I was 15.
“It went over, and (then-coach) Brett Davey encouraged me to do it more. It took a long time for the fans, they all knew me from when I wasn’t a goal-kicker so when I was announced as first choice they said ‘we need a real goal-kicker’. It took them a while to accept. Now they joke that I’m just a goal-kicker.
“I’ve not seen the kick for a while, but I remember striking it well. I remember not knowing what to do as I was running up. I used to play a lot of football so I hit it as I would have done a free-kick and hoped for the best. I do wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t got it. It worked out in the end.”
The bright lights of Manchester City
While Flockhart remains a key figure on the wing for the Knights, he has also taken on a second role as the strength and conditioning coach at the club.
It’s a position he has been in since 2012, and followed two years where he had worked at the Etihad Stadium with Manchester City, seeing how Premier League football teams keep their players in shape.
He explained: “The first two years at Doncaster I had a contact at Manchester City and I used to drive there on my days off to work at the academy. That was a bit of an eye-opener to see their facilities. "Driving there on days off was a nightmare, but it was worth it."
“It was the strength and conditioning coach of Scotland rugby league, Al Stewart, who went to Manchester City, and I said can I come through? Driving there on days off was a nightmare, but it was worth it.
“I took over the strength and conditioning at Doncaster in 2012, so I’ve been doing it for five years or so. It’s progressed year on year. With the boys that’s gone full circle as well.
“When I first took over they all knew me as just a player but now the boys have only known me as a S&C coach as well. We also try to get students in to train them up.”
Union or League?
While Flockhart’s emergence as a goal-kicker came something by accident, he very nearly ended up playing a different sport altogether.
A rugby league player as a youngster, Flockhart played internationally under current Scotland coach Steve McCormack and alongside star Danny Brough.
He even went back to league on a part-time basis when the Knights were relegated to National One – turning out for York – but it was in 2007 that he came closest to crossing codes.
“I played Scotland stuff at league when I was younger and then more recently, the year we went down, I went to play for York for 10 games,” he added.
“I really enjoy rugby league, and growing up in Dumfries that was what was on. We were so near Cumbria, so you got a lot of league.
“I really like it and watched a lot of Scotland this year. It was the best year ever in 2016. The year I played was when Danny Brough first started playing and we had a really good team.
“We played some good sides but we were nowhere near as successful as they are now. They’ve still got the same coach, Steve McCormack, so there’s been some continuity in there.
“I actually went on trial at Whitehaven when I left the Borders when they were disbanded in 2007, and it was a toss-up between them or going down to Esher. They were disbanded really late on, and I hadn’t been looking elsewhere because I’d been offered a two-year contract. So I almost went to league but ended up at Esher.”
Flockhart reached the 200-game landmark for Doncaster, in the British & Irish Cup against Rotherham on 21 January, and is the club’s longest-serving player.
During that time there have been some ups, as well as downs, but he is confident they are on the right track in their quest for a play-off place this season.
“It’s gone a full cycle since I’ve been here. This is my eighth season. When I joined everyone was signing, it was a club on the up,” he said.
“They had just finished in the top four. Then gradually we had a few bad seasons and it went into a thing that people were signing from Doncaster to Rotherham which was the turnaround. Then it’s gone the other way again and people are choosing us.
2️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ | Today's programme cover star is, unsurprisingly, Dougie Flockhart on his 200th game for the Club. Pick up your copy for just £2! pic.twitter.com/Q1xaiZwNC4— Doncaster Knights (@DoncasterKnight) January 21, 2017
“We’ve done full squad clear-outs a good few times, so I’ve probably played with a few hundred people, maybe more with loan players.
“There have been some bad times, lying on the pitch in Jersey wondering what had gone on when we were relegated. It was all over the place and I didn’t know what was going to happen but we managed to stabilise the ship the year we went down.
“It’s a bit of a transition this year but I think we’ve got more strength-in-depth than last season. We had a lot of injured guys last year and now we’ve got real Championship-calibre players who are a fully fit and ready to go so we can rotate our squad and have real competition. It took a while to gel but it’s going better now.”
Photo credit: John Ashton