When Charlie met Doddie: Insight into a day one six-year-old will never forget

Charlie [right bottom] met Doddie Weir and his family ahead of Scotland's match with New Zealand
©Mackenzie Family

With an hour or so gone in last Sunday’s Autumn Nations Series match between Scotland and New Zealand at BT Murrayfield, it seemed like it was going to be a day that all Scottish rugby supporters would remember forever.

Gregor Townsend’s men led the All Blacks 23-14 midway through the second period in Edinburgh, but the visitors upped the ante - and sub Jack Dempsey was yellow carded - as the hosts’ hopes of a first-ever win over that opposition slipped away.

The Scots may have lost 31-23 in the end, but no matter the score November 13, 2022, is a date that young Charlie Mackenzie from Invergordon up north in Easter Ross will never forget.

That is because it was the day Charlie - aged six and a primary two pupil at Hill of Fearn Primary School as well as a keen rugby player in the Ross Sutherland Mini section - was at the national stadium to present the match ball to Scotland skipper Jamie Ritchie alongside Doddie Weir.

“It was an amazing day from start to finish,” Charlie’s Mum Leigh told TRU.

“We had been kindly invited down to Murrayfield by Graham Law from Scottish Rugby for the previous week’s Fiji match and Charlie got to look around the changing rooms then and get a feel for the size of the stadium, but nothing could fully prepare him for what was to come last Sunday.

“The crowd was bigger and the noise was cranked up a notch while he was in awe meeting the legend that is Doddie Weir.

"Charlie was quite quiet in the tunnel before kick-off as he took it all in, but Doddie, his lovely wife Kathy and his three brilliant sons Hamish, Angus and Ben were really good with him and it was amazing to see him taking the match ball out and handing it to Jamie Ritchie with the crowd all cheering.

“He very proudly wore his Ross Sutherland kit and that meant a lot to the family because he is the great nephew of the former Scotland player Gregor Mackenzie who started out at the club [he was a prop who moved on to Highland and Selkirk and was capped against Australia in 1984].

“There was also a busload of the juniors down from Ross Sutherland so they were there watching him while he got to meet lots of players after the game and guys like Duhan van der Merwe and Sam Whitelock were really great with him.

“Having met Doddie, Jamie Ritchie, the two players I just mentioned and the Stoltman strongmen brothers [Luke and Tom] all in one day, all he kept on saying afterwards was just how big everyone was!

“It was such a great occasion and one the family will look back on fondly.”

Charlie’s fundraising: “I think everyone has been touched in some way by Doddie’s story”

So, why was Charlie the lucky one to be involved on Sunday?

Well last year when he was just four and had not even started school, he began running at least half a mile each day as part of Ross Sutherland's March into May fundraiser which was supporting My Name’5 Doddie Foundation and the club’s new clubhouse initiative.

“He was very keen to do it and we live in a rural setting out on a farm, so he got going and never looked back,” Leigh said.

"I think everyone has been touched in some way by Doddie’s story with MND and the amazing work that he and the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation are doing, so myself and Charlie’s Dad Pete were just pleased that he could play his part.

“He dragged us out at times before nursery too and the whole family got into it. He wanted to do it for the rugby club and for Doddie.

“At the time, after raising a healthy amount, he was sent a rugby ball and Doddie’s signature and it inspired him to start playing rugby at Ross Sutherland last August and he has loved it ever since.

“It is great to see him carrying on the tradition because as well as Gregor having played at Ross Sutherland back in the day, numerous Mackenzie family members have played - and had connections there - over the years.”

Scotland looking to end up-and-down 2022 on a high

Scotland have not had a consistent 2022 and with a big 2023 coming up - culminating in the World Cup in France - they want a statement performance against Argentina to bring their Autumn Nations Series to a close at Murrayfield on Saturday (3.15pm, live on Amazon Prime).

Glasgow Warriors’ No.8 Jack Dempsey comes into the side to make his first start for Scotland having come off the bench in the last three games since becoming eligible for the country.

His promotion means Matt Fagerson moves to six and skipper Jamie Ritchie is at seven as Hamish Watson is missing. Jonny Gray comes into the second-row for his older brother Richie who is suspended and the backline is unchanged.

George Turner, Jamie Bhatti, Murphy Walker, Glen Young, Andy Christie and Cameron Redpath all join the bench.

“We believe in them and we believe that their energy will be really important,” head coach Gregor Townsend said about his bench.

“People like Andy Christie, Murphy Walker and Cam Redpath are guys who want to get on the ball and take the game to the opposition. Glen Young also adds real punch and pace.”