The first inkling Mike Brown got that his days at Harlequins might be numbered
Despite being the club’s most capped player, Brown will reunite with former coach Dean Richards at Newcastle Falcons next season. The announcement of his departure this month was followed by the revelation of a four-minute meeting with then head coach Paul Gustard to tell the 35-year-old his contract would not be renewed.
Joining Christina Mahon, Ryan Wilson and Jamie Roberts on RugbyPass Offload this week, the 72-cap England fullback provided more details on what happened, and how he sensed something was strange towards the end of last season.
“I have to be a bit careful because the club weren’t too happy with what I said,” the 349-cap Quins star said. “What happened is what I said, and there’s a couple of reasons why I said it. One, I was kind of hurt with how it happened. Two, I want the club to learn so that things like this don’t happen again.
“There’s going to be other guys that leave in the future and I feel like there’s a lot of learning that can be taken from my situation. I think it’s important to do that. I think it’s important also to understand this isn’t old-school rugby anymore. I think people on the outside just lean on the whole romantic side of rugby, the loyalty, the respect, all those sort of values that I guess used to be a massive part of rugby, back in the ‘olden days’. I think people still lean on that when it’s on the player, but when it’s on the other things like the clubs, it’s just business. It’s important for me to get that across that yeah, that’s fine, it’s a business, but when a player does something to look after themselves, we can’t start going back to these romantic old school values of respect, loyalty.
“Everyone at some point gets moved along, but I think there’s a way of doing it and a process of doing it which I don’t feel was done right in my situation.
“I don’t want to go into too much detail. Laurie Dalrymple [CEO of Harlequins] has come out and said what he said, which is fine, he can do that like I did. But I’m not one of them to go back and forth.
“It’s how it led to that meeting. There were other things that went on which didn’t sit well with me for the service I gave. Things like having to chase for a long time. There was supposed to be a meeting with Gussy [Paul Gustard] before that which didn’t happen because of whatever reason and then moved onto another day. If it was that important to them it wouldn’t have been moved, it would have been done then and there.
“I felt something towards the end of that restart season. I asked Sean Long, for example, who left at the end of that season “is there something with the older lads because I’m feeling something”. I’m quite good at reading situations and environments and I could sense something with the coaches. So I kind of felt something but I thought I was playing well and my stats were showing that. I thought I was doing good things around the club. We’ve got a young back three with a lot of inexperience, and I’m helping those. People like Louis Lynagh, who’s come through massively, I was helping with mentoring and he’s come out and said nice things and he doesn’t have to do that. All those things you think “maybe I’m going to be kept on”.
“So to hear that in that meeting was a massive blow. And then to be left over the weekend with no one to talk to apart from my wife, who’s now stressed and upset and not really sure about our future, my dad, who the last time he was at the club it was for a ceremony where he’s hearing “you’ll always have a place at the club” and all that sort of thing. I’ve got to deal with that on my own.
“I know that O’Gara has talked about KBA and we have a similar thing with LQB"
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 22, 2021
“I’m not saying that for people to feel sorry for me, but it just goes back to the processes I’m talking about. We have one of the best welfare liaison officers you could imagine. But he wasn’t in that process for whatever reason, he didn’t even know it was going to happen. Such a big meeting. It’s a big meeting for anyone but for someone that’s been there for their whole adult life, for seventeen years, that’s a huge meeting. You need someone like that straight after the meeting to talk to, to check in on you, all those things. But I was left the whole weekend to process that, to deal with that with a young family.
“I came in on the Monday and I felt embarrassed, I felt like “where do I fit in? What am I doing here?” All those sort of things. As a player, all those insecurities you feel. I don’t know how to be in this environment anymore because I don’t feel I’ve got any value, any worth. You have all those sorts of things on top of you. It’s hard to explain, but that is what was going on.
“A week before my Newcastle announcement, they came back with something. It’s hard, because when things like that happen, all the feelings you have for the club are sucked out of you. I would argue that there is no one that has the feelings I have for Harlequins. The love, the loyalty, the respect.”
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