RICHARD Cockerill is confident that Magnus Bradbury has become leadership material again, two years after he suspended the back-row forward and stripped him of the captaincy following an incident on a night out in the centre of Edinburgh.
The incident, which saw Bradbury end up with a head injury, was widely seen as a challenge to the authority of the recently-arrived head coach, who had made his faith in the squad’s younger players plain by appointing Bradbury as skipper. But Cockerill dealt with it firmly and in a measured fashion, and a couple of seasons on both coach and player have a strong understanding.
Speaking earlier today (Tuesday) after it was announced that Bradbury has signed a new contract with Edinburgh, Cockerill said he was impressed by the player’s growing maturity, both in his individual game and in his contributions to the team. “Look, the more confident you get in playing the game and understanding your role within the game, I think that leads naturally to being able to lead,” he said. “As long as he stays off the piss, he’s got more chance of leading the team, hasn’t he?
“He’s big and he’s aggressive, he’s a good ball-carrier: when he carries, he carries hard, and he’s good at getting over the gainline. And when you run into him, you stay tackled. He’s a young man, still improving his game, obviously he’s a Test player, important to the national team as well.”
For his part, Bradbury believes that the suspension and loss of the captaincy in the autumn of 2017 were the making of him – even though he still wishes the whole incident had never occurred. “It was all my own fault and it was a bad time for me, but it’s been a learning curve,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I’m thankful for it – I’d rather it didn’t happen – but the lessons I’ve learned from that have helped me push on, and me and Cockers have a much better understanding of one another now. Being excluded from the Edinburgh and Scotland teams for however long pushed me on and made me want more, and I’ve turned that situation around and I’m back on a good footing going forward.
“He [Cockerill] is a pretty honest guy, so he’ll tell you straight up what he wants you to do. With that first Glasgow game [last month], I didn’t play my best and he said why, gave me the points straight up, and I was on the bench the following week.
“For me, that’s the best thing from a coach. There’s no beating around the bush: they just tell you how they want you to improve and how they want you to play. I think it’s the best way you can progress as a player and that helps with Scotland stuff as well.
“I would say being a physical player has always been a strength of mine,” he continued when told of Cockerill’s assessment of his game. “I put on a little weight when I was rehabbing my shoulder and that has added to my game. Speaking to Cockers and the Scotland coaches, there are always things you can improve on – softer touches in the wider channels, and stuff like that are the kind of things that Cockers always mentions to me. I would never say I’m complete, not the finished product. I can always keep adding to my game, so it’s exciting from that point of view that I can always keep building and progressing.”
With Edinburgh top of their PRO14 Conference B and in the running for a Champions Cup quarter-final place, Bradbury is convinced he has done the right thing by agreeing to stay for a while longer at the club he joined as a teenage academy player. “There was a little bit of interest from elsewhere, but I wanted to stay here,” he added. “With this period going forward, with this team we have right now and the coaching staff we’ve got, it’s the right place for me to be. The results I feel we can produce in the next couple of seasons – I think it’s an exciting place to be.”