RICHARD COCKERILL confirmed yesterday [Monday] that Magnus Bradbury will be the Edinburgh Rugby captain during the 2017-18 campaign, and insisted that he has no qualms about putting his faith in a 22-year-old who had only started one game for the club before the start of last season.
Bradbury has now got 31 Edinburgh appearances under his belt and has been capped twice by Scotland – starting against Argentina during last season’s Autumn Test and as a 58th minute replacement against Italy on the recent summer tour – but he is still a fresh-faced youth when compared to some of the more seasoned campaigners in the set-up.
“There’s been senior guys who’ve captained the side and it’s not gone so well. Part of this is change, developing leadership around a young man who has committed himself to the club so that we can build to the future. I think it’s a good choice. Is it bold? No, not really, because I think he can do the job. If he doesn’t play well he won’t be captain because he won’t be in the team. That’s the same with everybody,” said the head coach.
“I don’t think it’s a risk and if it is I don’t really care because it’s the right decision,” he added. “You can’t change anything without changing something. He’s an outstanding young man who will get even better as a player and will grow into a positive leader.”
“You have to start somewhere, so I’m going to help him on that way. Is he 100 per cent ready to be a leader of all men? Probably not. But in 12, 24, 36 months, I hope he’s a guy that this club will be built around, whether I’m here or not.”
“He’s big and he’s tough and he likes to get in the middle of a fight. I quite like that. I think that’s key. Sometimes captains lead by what they say, sometimes they lead by their actions, and Magnus is probably more the latter.”
Cockerill added that there had been no push-back from any of the experienced members of the squad who might have been regarded as more obvious choices for the role.
“I brought the senior guys in as leaders within the group and told them my decision and explained the reasons why. If there were any issues they had a forum to discuss them and they all agreed 100 per cent it was a good choice, that Magnus would be a good leader and it’s the best thing for the club going forward,” he stated.
“The perception is leadership is a problem at this club and it’s something I’ve been thinking about long and hard – creating enough vulnerability within the group that they are going to be competing for spots. Nobody is going to be comfortable in this environment, I won’t be comfortable because I want a winning team. There’s no old boys club here, no benefits or favouritism, we do what we need to do to win games. If they don’t want to be part of this then they can go and do something else.”
Cockerill played for several years at Leicester Tigers under one of the greatest captains in British sporting history, and he had a few words of wisdom gleaned from that experience for his protégé.
“Whatever you say to the team you have to deliver yourself. That’s important. Martin Johnson was captain of Leicester at 21, and then went on to have a pretty good career. He led by his actions. The rugby nous you learn as you go along. You learn from senior guys on the job as well. I don’t think Magnus is there yet but I think it’s important you show faith in the young players you have,” said the former hooker.
“If they’re good enough it’s time for them to step up, whether they’re 21 or 22. Jamie Ritchie’s done a very good job in pre-season and he will lead at some point during the season; as will guys like Duncan Weir and Grant Gilchrist, who have experience but are still very young men; and Ben Toolis is still very young. If Magnus doesn’t play someone else will step up, and we’ll still go and win games. I’ve got to help him, and the club have to help him as a leader, not just for us but moving forward into the national side.”
The abrasive Englishman was asked if he had appointed any vice-captains.
“No. There’s leaders on the field, your nines your tens, your 12s, the lineout callers. If Magnus leaves the field, I’ll make sure the referee knows who he has to argue with when he needs to,” Cockerill countered.
He was just as dismissive on the issue of dual captaincy.
“It’s a bit like dual coaching: no-one rules by committee … I certainly don’t. We only need one captain at a time, I don’t need to muddy the waters,” he quipped.