New signing Phil Burleigh has revealed he turned to a record-breaking Edinburgh Rugby predecessor from New Zealand before committing to the Capital outfit.
Utility back Burleigh was playing for Dunedin-based Otago Highlanders in the Super 15 competition when the opportunity to broaden horizons occurred.
He realised that one of the Highlanders’ favourite sons, Brendan Laney, pictured below, had made the same journey and decided to make contact.
“Brendan was able to tell me how much he enjoyed himself in Edinburgh and I’d love to have similar success,” said Burleigh.
Laney, like Burleigh, is Scots-qualified through ancestry and wasted no time in making his mark on the international team, while his 23 points against Ospreys in a European Cup match a decade ago remains unsurpassed by an Edinburgh player.
Burleigh added: “I also spoke with another Otago player who had enjoyed a spell in Scotland, John Leslie, so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect.
“I’d never been in this part of the world so it was always my intention to come over and I couldn’t have had more help settling in.”
Burleigh’s assimilation has been helped by a first try for Edinburgh which rounded off a comeback from 17-3 down and secured last weekend’s 20-20 draw at home to Scarlets. That eased memories of a record thrashing by Ospreys the previous weekend.
With Edinburgh pressing the Scarlets line, Burleigh roared on to a short pass and momentum as well as neat footwork helped carry him over, albeit the ref had to consult the video official.
“I always look for little holes around the rucks and one just opened for me after our scrum started to dominate with 20 minutes to go,” he said.
“The fact they lost a player [John Barclay] to the sin-bin around that time helped us also to get in the right area of the field to finish strongly. I definitely knew I was over, even if the angle shown on the big screen didn’t appear too clear cut. Fortunately it all worked out well and getting the draw meant showing a bit of character after what happened a week previously. That was especially the case given we lost a first-minute score for the second week running.”
Edinburgh ended last season with five defeats and one win from four starts this time around is hardly inspiring.
But Burleigh insisted: “The guys have worked hard to get the spirits up and take something from the Scarlets game. The aim is to take another step forward this Friday [at Ulster]. It did feel like points gained rather than dropped and hopefully we can carry on where we left off.”
Coach Alan Solomons has thrust Burleigh straight in despite a southern hemisphere campaign that went all the way to the Super 15 play-offs, but there is no sign of fatigue in a player who can cover full-back, centre or a stand-off role for which he is ultimately earmarked.
“I’m feeling fresh if a little spooked by the fact Edinburgh and Dunedin are twin cities with lots of identical place names,” he said. “The only thing I’m not looking forward to having come straight from the New Zealand winter is the prospect of another round of dark nights starting around 3.30pm.”