'Gutted': Harlequins finally react to Mike Brown's season-ending ban and whether they might appeal
Harlequins have given their first reaction to the six-match ban that has ended the long career of Newcastle-bound Mike Brown at the London club following his red card for stamping on Wasps’ Tommy Taylor last Sunday. Brown’s foul play was deemed to be a top-end offence by an RFU independent disciplinary panel which resulted in a twelve-week entry point before the eventual punishment was halved when the maximum mitigation of 50 per cent was applied to the sanction.
With Harlequins only having a potential six matches remaining in their Gallagher Premiership campaign, four regulation season fixtures plus scope for two potential playoff games, it means that the career of Brown is over at a club where he made his debut in an October 2005 Championship clash with Doncaster.
He has been given time away from the training ground to absorb the ramifications of this premature finish to his Harlequins stay and the club are still awaiting the arrival of the full written judgment to see if there are any grounds to launch an appeal.
It was Wednesday morning when confirmation of the hefty Brown ban emerged and it was Thursday afternoon when Harlequins general manager Billy Millard fronted the media to reflect on what has happened to the 35-year-old who was hoping for a title-winning send-off at Twickenham next month prior to commencing his two-year deal at Newcastle.
“I’m not going to get into that,” said Millard when asked about the fairness or otherwise of the six-game ban. “It is what it is. We’re gutted for Mike and we’ll just move on… we are waiting for the written statement to come in and the club will make a decision (about an appeal) from there. The club will have a look at it and make a statement shortly after.
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“I wasn’t involved in the (hearing) process directly. The way the system is set up there was going to be something there [a suspension], but when it finished we just let it go and we had some people meet with him and his family today [Thursday] and we’ll get more in-depth as we go. He would have been extremely disappointed and he is processing it.
“He is processing it in his own mind with his family and his close circle. He wears his heart on his sleeve and gives everything. It’s not going to be easy for him but there is a lot of good people around him. He just needs some space at the moment… he’s just processing it in his own time.”
Andy Sanger, the ex-solider who is the Harlequins player development and welfare manager, has been leading the club support for Brown. “He does a lot of work with all the players and partners and families and he is probably the point of contact, as well as his close mates in the group.
“All the staff and players have been in touch but Andy Sanger would be the one at the moment who is sort of leading that support,” explained Millard when quizzed on how the Londoners were rallying around their player in a week when mental health is a hot topic in English rugby with Quins prop Joe Marler even doing a show on the subject.
“How good was Joe’s show! We absolutely loved that and he is a big beacon in this building for it and everyone follows, but Andy is incredible. That wellness place is strong. You can always do it better but we take it very seriously and put a lot of time and energy into it with our medical staff and through the players association, so it is very important.”
Brown’s red card took place in a match that Harlequins bounced back to win with a buzzer-beating converted try from Marcus Smith, an outcome that led to contrasting dressing room emotions post-game.
“We just got around him [Brown] and let the process take care of itself. Obviously, there were a lot of bum taps and hugs but it was more about celebrating the emotion of the win and letting the staff members start that process and dealing with where we were going to go,” said Millard, who has been at the London club for three years.
“I didn’t know Mike before I joined here, it was just what we all see. There is not one (standout) moment – he is consistent, he is hard out, he is self-driven with performance during the week to get his body right and every weekend he brings it, it’s incredible and it’s just repeat, repeat, repeat.
“You always know what you are going to get with him and it’s that competitive professional beast that will always pitch for the boys on the weekend. I guess that’s the biggest takeaway I have got from him.”
Brown’s enforced absence will now leave Harlequins with a huge void to fill but Millard sounded optimistic they have the resources to cover the vacancy in the coming weeks with the title stakes rising.
“We’re confident that we have got two of three guys who are going to fill that void and do well but I guess the experience and the mantle he holds amongst the group and other clubs and Mike being Mike, the training week, the way he prepares himself, we’ll miss his energy and his professionalism around the place but we are very confident we have got some really good depth there to finish the season well.”
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