Phil Godman: The Merchiston Magician
The stand-off is so often the heartbeat of any side, and no player epitomised this mantra more than playmaker Phil Godman, ‘The Merchiston Magician.’
Godman was a mainstay in the capital side from 2004-2012, picking up 150 caps and notching 435 points for his hometown team. While at Edinburgh he was also selected to play for Scotland, making 23 appearances for the national team between 2005-10.
The stand-off grew up in Edinburgh, playing for Merchiston Castle School in three consecutive Scottish School Cup finals, winning in 1999 and 2000, however Godman started his professional career at Newcastle Falcons in 2002, and it was his return to the capital two years later that made him realise how big the 1872 Cup matches were.
“You grow into it and realise how big a deal it is,” said Godman.
“Epecially as you get through the season. I was at Newcastle first, and one of the first games I played was Glasgow away, and even then, I didn’t know how big it was.
“It was after that game that I realised how big it was for both teams, and then it became the double header over Christmas, and you saw how much it meant to the fans.
“I tried to treat it like a usual game in the season, but there was always a little bit extra with it being the local rivals and going against your opposite number for Scotland selection.”
Over the course of Godman’s 1872 Cup career the fixture grew and grew, with attendances increasing every year. The added noise increased the pressure on kickers, although for Godman it was a chance to give banter back to the Glasgow crowd.
“It grew a lot when I was playing in it. You would get a bigger and bigger crowd at BT Murrayfield, when you have a crowd of 10-15,000 you really notice it, and the games in Glasgow were always a full house.
“You knew it was a big game, and over Christmas you had to make sacrifices, but it’s worth it for such a big game.
“There was one in Glasgow when you noticed the noise, and I didn’t kick very well in that game. It made it a lot more difficult.
“On the flip side, I was kicking comfortably in the 2008 game, I was getting a lot of heat from Glasgow fans, and I was thinking about getting the kick so that I could give them a bit of good-natured banter back.”
Godman featured in two of Edinburgh’s most famous 1872 wins, most notably in December 2008 when he racked up 19 points as Edinburgh romped to a 39-6 victory over their local rivals, and the 35-31 thriller from December 2007.
The half-back added to his highlights reel in 2008 with a beautiful, flicked pass to set up Simon Webster for a brilliant score – a clip that Godman’s pupils at the High School of Dundee regularly bring up.
“The two 1872 games I remember were the good ones! When we won 39-6, and the year before when we won with a last-minute try. Normally we would dovetail each other, if we were doing well in the league Glasgow would beat us and vice versa, whereas now they’re pretty easily matched so it should be a good contest.
“The game in Glasgow would always be difficult, guys just got up for it. We upset them when they were high up in the league, and we’ve gone there with a good league position while they’ve been struggling, and they ended up hosing us!
“The games were normally quite turgid, but the two years I won were open, that was one of the games where I did the flick pass. The game being in winter meant you couldn’t always be free flowing, there were a few games where it was slow, in the mud, and you get a bit physically battered – although I tend to forget those ones!
“You always want to express yourself though, all the kids at my school always show me the clip of that little clip, nice to have one for the highlights reel!”
During his time at Edinburgh, Godman partnered current Head Coach in the halves and can see Blair’s influence on the current Edinburgh side.
“I played with Mike a lot over the years. Nines and 10s run the game, so you can see a good rugby mind. He did a few coaching sessions when I was at Newcastle, and you can just tell he’s got a rugby brain.
“The team are certainly playing the way you’d expect under Mike, they’re ‘playing’ a lot, but there’s reason behind it all, it’s not just chucking the ball around.
“I always knew he was going to be a coach - he has that sort of brain for it.”
Since his retirement from playing rugby, Godman has become the Head of Rugby at the High School of Dundee and has noticed that the 1872 Cup is a game noticed beyond the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
“They do notice it up here, a few of the kids go to both Glasgow and Edinburgh games. A lot go to the national games, but they’re certainly very aware of it, which is great for the profile of the game.
“Until I came up here, I wouldn’t have known, I used to think it was just people from Glasgow and Edinburgh cared about it, but it’s great to see it gets further than that.”