'It was bad' - Edinburgh winger Darcy Graham embracing new season as he opens up on brother's car crash
After a turbulent year in which his brother suffered life-threatening injuries in a car crash, things are starting to look up for Darcy Graham and his family.
Mercifully, the Edinburgh winger is able to report that Clark is on the mend, recovering well from the brain injuries sustained in the collision near Hawick in January.
Professionally, Darcy Graham is also in a good place. The Scotland back is on course to return to rugby next Saturday when Newcastle Falcons come north to officially open the new Edinburgh Rugby Stadium.
It will be his first game in over five months following an operation on his shoulder and his first experience of a match on the artificial surface on which Edinburgh will now play their home games. Graham feels refreshed and ready to embrace the new season.
“My recovery has been pretty straightforward,” he said. “Everything has come together really well, so I should be flying for this game.”
The faster pitch should suit the lightning-quick winger and he doesn’t see himself having to adapt too much, unlike some of his team-mates.
“It is a very quick pitch, especially on a dry day,” he confirmed. “We play with the mouldies rather than the big studs. The bigger boys would have struggled on it. Moving from grass it is a bit harder surface so we have been [training] on it for a few months now so the boys have got used to it.”
‘Enjoy the good days’
Events of the past few months have given Graham a greater appreciation of the important things in life, offering him a greater sense of perspective and underscoring the importance of family. Unsurprisingly, what his younger brother has gone through has shaped his own outlook.
“Always enjoy the good days. There are always going to be tough, bad days round the corner,” he says. “Bad injuries, family, loved ones. Just enjoy those good days. You have just got to live life.
“Two years for everybody with lockdown is nearly over so just go out and enjoy life and get out there. There is more to life than rugby. That is one thing I learned. I am lucky to have such a close family in such tough times.”
‘He is my hero’
Clark was 17 and had only recently passed his driving test when he was involved in the crash while travelling with friends from his home in Hawick to the McDonald’s in Galashiels.
Clark, the driver, bore the brunt of the accident and spent three and a half weeks in a coma and four and a half months in hospital.
“The last time we spoke he had just come through all the dark bits,” said Darcy. “Looking back we didn’t really realise how bad things were. It was bad. He shouldn’t be here but we are very lucky to have him and think that every day. He is my hero. Every time I look at him I am buzzing.
“Clark is doing really well. He has got a girlfriend now as well, he is loved up and it is nice to see.”
Graham exudes an understandable sense of contentment and can’t wait to get back to competitive action. Edinburgh changed coaches during his rehabilitation from injury, with Mike Blair replacing Richard Cockerill and the winger thinks it should suit his game.
“Hopefully I see a lot more ball,” he said. “But I always want to see more ball. If I get 15 touches in a game I will always want more. Nothing for myself really changes. I am still going to go out looking for that ball and get my hands on it.
“The style of rugby we play hopefully will be a bit more expansive but we need to be controlled in that area. We can’t get loose or overplay or play ourselves into trouble. We have to be smart at all times. We have to keep the values Cockers brought in and be smart rugby players.”
Dealing with Cockerill’s exit
Although last season was a disappointing one for Edinburgh, Graham is appreciative of the work Cockerill did in galvanising the club during his four years in charge and the way in which he raised standards. But he is also acutely aware that results dictate the hiring and firing of coaches.
“It’s the pro era. Players come and go, coaches come and go,” he said. “We are professional about it and crack on as we have a job to do. Back when we got the news Cockers had left we just had to deal with it.
“Mike has come in and done a really good job setting up what he wants from us. The senior players have kept hold of what Cockers has brought in so nothing has really changed for us. As players we just hold on to the same values from when Cockers came in which is working hard, keep it tight, and being disciplined. We work for each other so nothing has changed in that aspect.”
Wing and a prayer
Graham has not played for Edinburgh since the humbling defeat by Racing 92 in the European Champions Cup in April. Duhan van der Merwe has since left the club to try his luck in England but another powerful, pacey winger has joined in the shape of Freddie Owsley so Graham knows competition for places will be tough.
“I just want to kick on with Edinburgh,” he said. “I want to get back into that starting wing spot. There have been boys training here Fred, Jack Blain, who have been training all pre-season and who have been flying. There is a real contest for that wing spot. I have to prove my worth and kick on for Scotland again.
“I am excited for this season with new boys coming in, fresh faces into the coaching group and playing staff, and the new ground as well. I can’t wait to get going and get the fans back in here and get the noise going.”