Lids, lattes and lockdown - with Damien Hoyland
With Edinburgh's squad back in training and the Guinness PRO14 restart only weeks away, it’s given players a chance to finally experience a touch of normality following the chaos of the past few months.
For the majority of us, lockdown has been a strange time, filled with plenty of Netflix and eating, but very little productivity. Luckily, Damien Hoyland was not among those numbers, as the utility back - now in his sixth season with the club - thrived during his time away from the pitch.
Hoyland is a self-confessed coffee lover, and having established his own business – Ruck Coffee – alongside teammate Stuart McInally, lockdown gave him the chance to really explore the art behind a cup of coffee.
“I actually quite enjoyed it!” admitted Hoyland when asked about lockdown. “I got into a routine nice and early, which consisted of waking up, having a cup of coffee, doing a running session, weights, and then the rest of the day to myself – which mostly involved Xbox and making coffee videos.”
“That was pretty much my life for 13 weeks. By the end of it though, I was looking forward to getting back into some training to be honest – not seeing the boys was one of the toughest things, because these are some of your best mates that you see every day. It was tough in that sense, so getting to see them again has been class.”
The 26-year-old hasn’t had it easy in recent seasons, having suffered consecutive injuries to his groin, knee and foot. However, Hoyland believes this time off has given him the perfect opportunity to rest his body, and return a fitter player than ever.
“I reckon I came back on the first day of training feeling the best I’d felt in the whole of my career – and this is my seventh year as a professional player. That time off, without contact, isn’t something you’re used to as a player, but I managed to keep up a lot of running and gym-work, so I came back feeling not just the freshest, but the fittest I’d felt in a while.”
Whilst usually a clean-cut figure on the field, Hoyland admits he’s been trying something new with his hair – and was quick to call out a few teammates for their choices of hairstyle.
“I got a haircut at the weekend but it’s still really long on top, so I’ve been getting a bit of stick from the boys because I’ve been wearing an alice band at training!
"There’s quite a lot of contenders for worst lockdown lid though. Murray's [McCallum] blonde hair is bad, Hamish [Watson] looks like he’s been homeless for the last 15 weeks and has just found a razor to do his sides, and Stuart’s [McInally] is awful! He just does not suit getting it shaved high on the sides.”
Away from lockdown lids, the winger has been spending time getting into coffee tutorials on Instagram, filming a series of videos of himself offering tips on how to decorate a latte.
“I really enjoyed making the videos because I love my coffee, and those videos took up a few hours of my days, but the only problem was that I was making so many coffees that I ran out quite quickly.
"A few of the boys give me stick for it, but I’ve had a lot of good feedback and it’s funny because a lot of those guys took the mick out of me initially – but I know they’ve been finding those videos helpful. We’ve got a coffee group and we always post latte art to each other on WhatsApp!”
On the rugby side of things, Hoyland – whilst a winger by nature – has often been utilised as a fullback this season, due to Blair Kinghorn’s international duties. Although a new experience for the back, Hoyland’s confident he has all the qualities necessary to play wherever, whenever.
“I’ve probably played my best rugby as a player on the wing, but if I can get into the team in any slot, I’m happy. A fullback in our team is probably a little bit more of a ball-playing role, so you have a bit more to think about in terms of coverage, and kicking – but if anything, that has helped open up my game, and I feel that playing fullback this year has just added another string to my bow.
"I’m very comfortable there now, but I wouldn’t say I have a preference of position at the minute. Winger, fullback, anywhere to be honest – I’m just delighted to get a run out."
Looking ahead to the season restart, Hoyland is keen to make history with the club and 'do something we've never done before' but insists focus needs to be kept on the next two matches - back-to-back fixtures with rivals, Glasgow Warriors.
“We’ve really got a chance to push for the finals, do something we’ve never done before, and have the opportunity to win the league. We’ve been working hard these last few weeks and we’re not looking into next season at all just yet – it’s all about these next few games.”
“It would mean so much to me if we could take the title. It’s obviously been a disjointed season, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that we’re top of the Conference this year, and have beaten some really good opposition.
"I’ve said from the start – since I first came to this club – that with the quality of players and coaches we’ve had, we’re more than capable of really achieving something big. It’d be an awesome feeling.”