NEW Edinburgh captain Fraser McKenzie has wasted no time in in offering his support to Magnus Bradbury, even going so far as to suggest that his predecessor will one day return to the role – and possibly to higher things too. At the same time, the 29-year-old lock admitted he did not know when he would be able to welcome John Hardie, who is currently suspended, back into the side.
McKenzie was announced as captain on Tuesday after Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill decided to take the honour away from Bradbury because of his involvement in a city-centre incident in which he injured his head. The announcement drew a line under the inquiry into that incident, according to Cockerill, and Bradbury is now back in training and likely to return to the team for the match against Ospreys at the start of next month.
It has been a tough lesson for the 22-year-old back-row forward, but McKenzie is in no doubt that he will learn from it and come back stronger for the experience. “Maggie is a fantastic person, a good guy,” he said. “He’s made this mistake and he’s paid the price. He knows it, and he’ll address the team himself this week. He’s back training and I’ve got no doubt that it will be a positive reaction from him because he’s a great player and a good guy.
“That’s what I want to see from Magnus. I want to see him come back, prove a point, and get into the Scotland stuff,” McKenzie continued, referring to a possible recall to the national squad. “Eventually, Magnus will come back round and he will be captain for Edinburgh and might even go further – but that’s upon him making right decisions and learning from his mistakes. I think these mistakes will help propel him potentially into a better mindset, which will only help his onfield stuff as well.”
Hardie has been suspended by both Edinburgh and Scottish Rugby since last Friday for the alleged use of cocaine, and no details have been divulged as to how long an inquiry might take. In theory at least, then, the openside flanker could also make a swift return to Gregor Townsend’s squad, but McKenzie admitted that he and his team-mates were not fully aware of how the matter is proceeding.
“None of the players have talked to John since the incident broke. We were in Russia and we’ve only just come back. We’ve been told next to nothing, which I think is down to legal issues. John will be supported by the team regardless, but there are consequences for everything. That’s outwith our hands.
“We just have to to bide our time and focus on the playing side of things. I don’t know when John will come back or what will happen, but we’ll focus on playing Treviso and then the Ospreys so that we can go into the break in a good mindset. There are boys that will go away with Scotland, and the rest of the guys will freshen up and then we’ve got a big trip to South Africa.
“We knew about the John Hardie situation the same time as the press release was going out. It was the night before the game [in Moscow against Krasny Yar], so we had limited time. We hadn’t been told much, but we were in a position where we could talk about it or we could focus on the game.
“We’re a professional rugby team, but we’re still close knit. The boys will support anybody in the team, but performance is the main thing.
“The last three games we’ve gone out during this storm and we’ve won three games quite convincingly. We look forward to Treviso this week. We know they’re improving, we know they’re a good side, and we know that if we don’t go out there prepared and fully concentrating on the game we’ll get punished. That’s the main thing: driving standards on the field and off. We’re fully concentrating on training this week, that’s the main aspect.
“We’ve had conversations this week saying ‘Look, we need to put this to one side’. It’s outwith our hands. We’ll be told at the same time as the press – or maybe just before – but we don’t know anything. We just focus on the playing side, the training side, and will build on the ambitions we have.”
With the likes of Grant Gilchrist, Ben Toolis and Anton Bresler in the squad, McKenzie knows he is far from guaranteed a place in the starting line-up. But whether he is in the 15, on the bench, or out of the matchday squad altogether, he believes that he has an important role to play in helping improve standards at the club.
“In my role as club captain, I may not necessarily always be out on the pitch, but I see myself as driving the standards off the field and on the field,” he continued. “I’ll guide people into making good decisions.
“A lot of people have done the same thing as Magnus has done, but he has to realise that he is in a position of responsibility. Things that he does will get picked up and scrutinised more than with other people. It’s guiding him, guiding people, into making right decisions.
“Two isolated incidents have not helped the situation, but I don’t think there’s a bad culture about the club. I don’t think we’ve got an issue with our standards. It’s not helped the situation, but it doesn’t make the players bad people. It’s mistakes, and people learn from mistakes. It happens at a lot of clubs, but it hasn’t helped us with two having happened so close together.
“I think we need a disciplined environment. Players will react when we’ve got discipline within the training and our whole environment. Some players go out on a Saturday night after a game; the majority of players don’t.
“We’ve got a young side, and young players have sometimes not been guided into this role – they’ve been put into these positions a lot younger than some people. The older players in the team need to guide them into making good decisions and help them. I don’t want these incidents to happen again.”