FRASER MCKENZIE has announced his retirement from rugby with immediate effect, following medical guidance related to a series of shoulder injuries which have kept the lock out of action for over a year.
The 33-year-old is bringing down the curtain on a career which has seen him spend 15 years in the pro rugby environment with Edinburgh’s Academy, Edinburgh, Sale Sharks, Newcastle Falcons and Edinburgh again. In total, he made 119 appearance for the capital club.
“Obviously there is a never a right time to retire or give up the game you love doing, but unfortunately your body tells you when it’s time to stop and for me that’s now,” said McKenzie, who started out in the game with Dunfermline RFC.
“I suffered a shoulder injury against Scarlets last year and I rehabbed it fully throughout the lockdown period, but then coming back to face Glasgow Warriors in August 2020, I dislocated it again, which meant I had to go for further surgery.
“It’s been an accumulation of injuries and my body has definitely been struggling with the rigours of professional rugby.
“At the end of the day, I’m still a young man and I’ve had a good innings throughout my career. Injury means that I’m stepping away, but I’m proud of what I’ve achieved.”
A former Scotland U20 captain, McKenzie joined the club’s academy straight from school in 2006 and made his Edinburgh Rugby debut at home to Connacht in September 2009.
The lock made the move south to join Sale Sharks in 2011 – followed by a spell at Newcastle Falcons in 2013 – but returned home to the Scottish capital in 2014.
McKenzie made a poor first impression when Richard Cockerill arrived as head coach at the club in the summer of 2017. “He looked like a retired footballer,” recalled the Englishman several months later. “He was in t-shirt and shorts, had a really good suntan and was slightly overweight. He was just in pretty shit nick.”
However, the second-row worked hard to win the coach over, and was successful enough in doing that to be named Edinburgh captain midway through the following season.
“Fraz is a club legend, make no bones about it,” said Cockerill when the retirement was announced. “He’s been a hugely important player during both his spells at Edinburgh Rugby and we’re obviously sad to see him retire – but it’s the right decision for Fraz.
“He commands a huge amount of respect from the changing room and that’s testament to the way he carries himself around the club. He’s a great example for young forwards coming through the ranks.
“Fraz has never given less than 100% and as a club centurion he will always be part of Edinburgh Rugby’s rich history, even now as he hangs up his boots.
“We wish him all the best as he steps in to life post-rugby and we hope to see him back to a match next season.”
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McKenzie says he is now focussed on spending time with his young family in his hometown of Dunfermline.
“Looking back, I’m most proud of getting a professional contract with the club that I grew up supporting and watching – that’s been huge for me,” he added.
“Captaining the team and leading us to the play-offs for the first time in 2017-18 was amazing and that season was a great success.
“It made me really proud as a player to do that. You play with some terrific players, but when you captain them, you just feel quite humbled by it all.
“Making my 100th appearance for the club was a big one as well. There aren’t too many players that have reached that landmark, it doesn’t happen too often, so to reach that number of games for Edinburgh Rugby was huge.
“Edinburgh Rugby means a lot to me. I grew up watching the team and even going to watch a game was a massive thing for me back in the day, never mind playing a game for the club. It’s been a brilliant experience.
“I’ll always be an Edinburgh supporter and I’m really looking forward to coming to games in the future and watching the guys.
“Moving forward, the big thing is to get full range in my arm as I’m still recovering from my shoulder injury.
“I’m also really looking forward to getting some quality time with the family. Being a pro rugby player is so structured that you don’t get too much time away from training, travelling and playing all the time.
“It will take some time to adjust to normal life and I’m going to take some time to reflect and really focus on what I want to do in life after rugby.”