Above: Harry Wanless works hard to balance his studies and his rugby ambitions
Promising Year 12 rugby player Harry Wanless, who has been selected onto the Scottish Qualified player pathway programme, hopes to follow in the footsteps of his great-grandfather and represent the country on the pitch.
Harry has been playing rugby union since the age of seven and competed at school, club and county level before being selected for the SQ performance pathway – a programme designed to support and develop eligible players living outside of Scotland.
In the 1930s, Harry’s Scottish-born maternal great-grandfather, William Swan, played in the first XV at Dunbar RFC and gained two caps for Scotland during his rugby career. It was in the same era that his great-grandmother Jean Hann was a pupil at Dame Allan’s Girls’ School, which she attended until 1933.
Speaking about his great-grandfather, Harry, a 1st XV player at Dame Allan’s Schools, said: “He always was, and still is, a huge inspiration to me. He gained his caps for Scotland playing as hooker and when I was selected onto the U16s squad for a SQ fixture I also played hooker!”
Both Harry’s paternal and maternal grandmothers were born in Scotland, making him eligible to play for the country. SQ first stage training sessions are held across the country, with upcoming North East division training events taking place at Dame Allan’s Schools’ grounds in December and February.
Harry said: “Playing for SQ is a great experience - it puts both my skills and my confidence to the test.
"Like my great-grandfather, I’d love to achieve a cap for Scotland. I know the competition to play international rugby is incredibly high, so I intend to keep working hard at both the game and my studies.”
Harry’s grandfather, William Swan’s son Peter Swan, who is now in his late 70s and living in Stakeford, Northumberland, said: “I am extremely proud that my grandson Harry has been able to start to follow in my father’s footsteps in rugby. It is a great privilege to see Harry grasping the opportunities he has been given at Dame Allan’s and within the Scottish Qualified setup.”
Sixteen-year-old Harry joined Morpeth Rugby Club almost ten years ago and began playing rugby at Dame Allan’s Junior School in Year 4. In 2021, he was selected for the county’s Developing Player Programme (DPP) - a programme, overseen by Newcastle Falcons Academy, to provide enhanced opportunities for the best young players across the region. He has represented Northumberland in U15 and U16 county fixtures and recently joined Tynedale Rugby Club.
Adam Hay, Head of Rugby at Dame Allan’s Schools, was involved in the SQ pathway as a player and is now an age group national coach. Talking about Harry’s rugby season to date he said: “Harry has done well as a regular 1st XV front row option.”
Harry, whose cousins William and Annabel Stevens both also attended Dame Allan’s Schools, juggles his commitment to rugby with his studies. In August, he celebrated an impressive set of GCSE results – five grade 9, two grade 8 and three grade 7 - and joined Dame Allan’s Sixth Form in September to take Biology, Chemistry and Psychology at A Level.
Harry, who is also working towards the DofE Gold Award and a super-curricular Sports Leadership Level 3 qualification at school, hopes to go on to study pharmaceutical medicine.
His mother, Katrina Wanless, said: “‘We are thrilled with the way Harry has relished every opportunity given to him within school and beyond, it is through his own hard work and determination to make himself and his family proud that he has achieved the targets he has set for himself.”
Will Scott, Principal at Dame Allan’s Schools, said: “Harry’s passion for rugby and talent on the pitch are matched by his commitment to his studies and achievements in the classroom. He is a very diligent and dedicated pupil, and we wish him every success with Scottish Qualified.”