JOHNNIE BEATTIE was never a slouch on the pitch, so it’s hardly surprising that the former Scotland international back-row hasn’t been hanging around when it comes to investigating his career options for life after rugby. The man who scored a sensational try which got the ball rolling for Scotland the last time they won in Ireland at Croke Park back in 2010 is looking ahead positively after announcing his retirement from playing earlier this month.
At the age of 34, he looks back fondly on a career that saw him earn 38 caps between 2006 and 2015, and play at Glasgow Warriors, Montpellier and Castres, before signing off with Bayonne. Having helped the Basque outfit to the PROD2 title last season, he had hoped for a final year at the club before hanging up his boots. However, finances dictated that the club had to apply its limited resources to bolstering positions where there were obvious weaknesses that would be exposed in the Top 14.
That signalled the end for Beattie and, when a proposed deal in Japan also fell through, he bowed to the inevitable. “I think it was quite a natural decision”, he states. “In many senses, rugby is like most jobs and it has a natural shelf life. Unfortunately, we also have a physical shelf life which doesn’t help with rugby. That made it relatively straightforward.”
There are no regrets at having to give up playing the game and he looks back with great affection on a sport that has enriched his life.
“I think I’ve been very lucky and privileged to have been everywhere, played for all of the teams and met all the people that I’ve met, and it felt like the time was right mentally to look for a fresh challenge, to look at different options and to channel myself in different routes,” he adds. “Also, after winning the Division Two title with Bayonne last year, I got to the end of a contract, a contract in Japan fell through in November. I had already decided that it would have been my last contract. It didn’t go through and at the end of a very long journey I thought: ‘That’s it, time to look forward to different challenges and new things’.”
Now he is switching his focus to what comes next. There are no concrete plans, but that is more a desire to consider all the options rather than a lack of choice.
“It’s trying to get fingers in pies, for want of another expression,” he suggests. “I want to experience as much as I possibly can, which will help make the choice for the long term. One of the issues with the rugby bubble is that it’s very small and insular, and you don’t get out to see that much of the world.
“So, for me, it’s been great to get back to Scotland and network. It’s one thing I haven’t done because I’ve been in France for the past eight years. There’s also been different little pieces of work started in consulting for a couple of different companies and media work has started with a few different outlets. So, I’m just trying to progress in all of these different ways, and different areas of work, and see what’s exciting. So I want to just enjoy the challenge and move forward that way.”
Watch highlights of Scotland’s last victory in Ireland, including Johnnie Beattie’s try, here (article continues below) –
There were highs and lows in his career, but it is not the peaks such as featuring in Glasgow’s ‘Killer Bs’ back-row or the international successes, or helping Bayonne to silverware, that stand out for Beattie.
“It’s been the people,” he insists. “Whether it’s been at Glasgow and growing up with great friends, starting at Under-18s with Greig Laidlaw and John Barclay and people like that, the people I‘ve moved forward with who are still good friends – Al Kellock and Graeme Morrison were best men at my wedding. And then moving out to France and facing new challenges, working with and meeting people from Georgia, Argentina, New Zealand, South Africa – from all over the world. That gives you friends for life from places all over the world. That has honestly been the best bit.
“I wouldn’t say there’s been rugby highlights or particular games. There’s a couple of memories that stand out but it’s mainly been the people that I’ve met along the way, their families that my wife and kids have become friends with.”
Beattie and his family enjoy a nice lifestyle just outside Hossegor near Biarritz and they have no immediate plans to leave France, having recently successfully applied for French citizenship.
While considering longer-term options, his immediate focus is on a burgeoning media career on both sides of the English Channel. He has already had some work as a summariser, and will be on screens and airwaves during the Six Nations.
The final whistle may have sounded on his playing career, but Beattie is now applying his energy to developing a new career. And, if he attacks it with the same gusto he exhibited for that memorable try against Ireland at Croke Park in 2010, he looks set to make a success of the next phase in his life.