Cancer-ridden Des Burleigh knew he would never see his grandson Phil play international rugby.
So from Christchurch via Skype he told Phil, playing in Scotland for Edinburgh: “You make sure you wear the blue jersey son.”
A week later Des passed away. That was six months ago.
At the weekend, Phil fulfilled his grandfather’s dream when he ran on as a late replacement for Scotland in their 53-24 demolition of the Wallabies in front of 67,000 at Murrayfield.
Des would have been very proud, Phil’s father Wayne Burleigh said yesterday.
Originally from New Brighton, Phil qualified to play for Scotland because he has played three years there.
Wayne – like his son, a gifted midfielder who played for New Brighton – told The Star Des’ words ran through his head as he watched the match on TV.
And even more so when Phil sang the Scottish national anthem before kick-off.
Des, who spent a number of years on the Canterbury Rugby junior advisory board, was one of Phil’s biggest fans, Wayne said.
“I think he knew he was on the way out so he gave him a bit of advice.”
“He would follow all his progress [in Scotland] on his iPad and Phil would Skype him all the time,” Wayne said.
He said Phil’s other late grandfather Stan Wilson would have been proud as his mother was Scottish.
Phil’s appearance for Scotland caps a great year for New Brighton rugby.
He played alongside All Blacks centre Ryan Crotty during his club days at New Brighton and another seasider, Kieron Fonotia, made his debut for Manu Samoa against the All Blacks on June 16 at Eden Park. All three played in the Shirley Boys’ High first XV in 2005. Fonotia has also been on Samoa’s Northern Hemisphere tour.