One of the great unfulfilled talents of Scottish rugby may finally have got his career back on track amidst predictions that he will return to the professional ranks sooner rather than later.
The latest evidence that Fraser Brown, 22, retains significant potential came with his hat-trick of tries as Heriot’s swept aside Edinburgh Accies 38-5 as both teams opened their Scottish Regional Cup campaign at Raeburn Place.
And, in four games at open-side flanker since resuming, ex-hooker Brown has aggregated a remarkable seven tries.
If ever a player was due a slice of luck it was surely Fraser who, after shoulder (twice), neck and bicep injuries, was released without playing a game from the Edinburgh Rugby club he joined on a two-year deal after captaining Scotland at the 2009 under-20 World Cup in Japan.
Even then the fates weren’t quite finished with the man who appeared in all the Scottish under-20 Six Nations games in 2008 because, while undertaking pre-season training with Sale Sharks, he suffered another knock and was advised to take a rest to let his body recover.
However, this Autumn’s senior World Cup saw Fraser’s frustration boil over. He recalled: “I was watching a quarter-final when I couldn’t stand the thought of being left on the sidelines any longer. I picked up my phone and texted my old rugby coach at Merchiston Castle School, Mark Appleson, who I knew was assisting Heriot’s.
“As I’d hoped, an invite to train at Goldenacre followed and after one game in the 2nds I was promoted to the first team. Finally I am experiencing what I set out to achieve in rugby which was, pure and simply, enjoyment.
“I signed for Edinburgh with high hopes but it wasn’t much fun being in and out of the treatment room and being released to play club rugby as a professional does bring a certain amount of awkwardness based on dropping in late in the week to mix with players you can’t really be expected to know.”
Initially with Biggar, the young Brown stepped up to Division One level with Watsonians where he was restricted to just five games in two years prior to joining Edinburgh.
If he turns out for Heriot’s this weekend he will have equalled that total in little over a month.
“I was really low when the shoulder I’d had operated on went again in Japan at the under-20 World Cup and, when I picked up the neck injury just before Edinburgh’s match with Connacht last season, that was the trigger for them to initiate the release clause in my contract. I was disappointed, of course, but I also understood.
“Maybe after a season of enjoying being on the pitch something will come up again at pro level.”
With a new position in the scrum, Brown was a class act as the Heriot’s pack took charge against lightweight Accies, mostly denying them possession except for the likes of Jake Knight, a feisty Australian speedster who, on just one opportunity, ran the length of the pitch leaving Heriot’s in his slipstream. Knight’s sixth try in as many matches came after Brown had driven over for a brace inside 13 minutes.
A touchdown by Colin Goudie was also converted by Graham Wilson before half-time and regular scores by Cammy Ferguson, Brown again and finally full back Gregor Lawson underlined Heriot’s high tempo through 80 minutes.
During Brown’s brief stint at Heriot’s, they have won two out of four and only lost by a point at high-flying Dundee causing coach Appleson to refer to his ex-pupil as “our best kept secret.” Appleson said: “We have been slowly getting better and that’s probably the best we have played this season.
“We are playing wider with Fraser at flanker (in support of the ball carrier) and getting quicker ball from the pack. It’s Fraser’s professionalism that is taking him into try scoring positions. Also, he works incredibly hard at training and, as a leader, the guys follow him.
“He has forced colleagues to work harder and harder and for the past six weeks we’ve had a full complement at training.
“I knew he could do the job at flanker and it’s not going to be long before a professional team picks him up but he will continue to make a difference as long as we have him, as has the return to the club of Gregor Lawson. From full back, Gregor stays deep and attacks at every opportunity increasing our options. Now we must make sure in taking the cup very seriously that our current form isn’t a false dawn.”
As for Brown what price a clubs’ international cap to add to his age-group honours?
Edinburgh Accies: Try – Knight.
Heriot’s: Tries – Brown (3), Ferguson, Goudie, Lawson. Conversions – Wilson (4).
Edinburgh Accies: J Sole, J Farndale, P Sutter, R Bonner, J Knight, E Bonner, J Adams, D Morrison, M Liness, K Blyth, A Graham, N Pike, D Teague (captain), A Lamb, J Taggart. Subs: S Jeffers, C Murray, A Findlater, R Browne, C Reid.
Heriot’s: G Lawson, A Scott, M Learmonth, C Mark, C Goudie, C Ferguson, G Wilson (captain), A Dymock, K Bryce, S Cessford, R Wilson, M Reid, R Cessford, J Hill, F Brown. Subs: J-P Ward, G Cameron, D Wallace, M Nimmo,R Tran.
Referee: G Gordon.