'I remember it was stressful. I don't envy anyone in that position'
Newly recalled Scotland midfielder Matt Scott has offered advice to players currently in the awkward situation of finding themselves without a contract for next season. It was last year when the midfielder last capped in 2017 was himself facing the rugby scrapheap.
He had verbally been offered a fresh three-year deal at Edinburgh in November in 2019 but when it came to finalising negotiations, Scott woundingly learned that the offer no longer existed and he then spent four months fretting about a future where he had no deal and his first child was on the way.
“My wife was really looking forward to staying (in Edinburgh) for another three years and we were looking to start a family. It was just gutting, to be honest,” said Scott at the time. His stress was eventually alleviated when Leicester offered a deal last April and his rejuvenated form in the Gallagher Premiership since then has ultimately earned him a Scotland recall for their upcoming summer series.
A year on from his own ordeal, the uncertainty regarding contracts in professional rugby is continuing if the remarks this past week by Newcastle boss Dean Richards are anything to go by. He said: “It is astounding how many are looking for contracts and it is worrying for the game that there is just one professional rugby league in England.
“There is a need for a second division that is professional and there are a lot of players who won’t have jobs going forward. It’s almost a buyer’s market. Throughout the rugby world, there are fewer players being offered contracts and the only two stable markets are Japan and New Zealand.”
"I was really perplexed; I didn’t understand why it was happening."
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 28, 2020
Scott is relieved that type of nerve-wracking waiting game is behind him, the 30-year-old Scotland recall revelling in his second stint in the Premiership having initially been at Gloucester some years ago before switching to Edinburgh. It’s an unsettling experience he doesn’t want to ever experience again and asked by RugbyPass if he had a message for anyone currently without a deal, he said: “I remember it was stressful. I don’t envy anyone in that position, especially guys with families or young children.
“You’re just waiting on the news each day, you are waiting for your agent to call you to say we have got somewhere but it is difficult. Everyone is in a completely different circumstance. There might be young players who don’t have much of a CV behind them. I had a bit more experience behind me and I was lucky enough to pick up something at Leicester.
“Just keep positive and keep yourself in that good mental headspace. Obviously, it’s good to have a backup plan in place. It is very difficult in any sort of work not knowing if you are going to have your job, your contract is maybe ending at the end of June and some guys don’t have a job for next month.”
The rejection from Edinburgh and the length of time spent seeking out an alternative did play on the mind of Scott, leaving him worried that he might no longer have had what it took to play among the club elite, never mind securing Scotland selection. “I guess you do wonder whether you can play on that level again but the best thing for me really was I came away from Edinburgh, came away from that SRU bubble as it were and really has to knuckle down to prove myself to a new bunch of coaches, a new bunch of players.
“That was really a good thing for me. I just focused on getting better every week as a rugby player, I wasn’t thinking about Scotland, I wasn’t thinking about anything bigger than that. It’s amazing what can happen, just small improvements each week and getting a run of games, staying fit for the whole season.
“I see someone like Rory Sutherland has made the Lions squad – a couple of years ago at Edinburgh, he was third-choice and was really out of the mix and out of the picture. He had some really dark moments and was kind of wondering whether rugby was really for him and now he has made the Lions squad. You see stories like that a lot and you are perhaps closer than you think to step up a level and it’s just about staying positive, working hard every day and good things can happen.”
Asked why his face has fitted in so well at Leicester, Scott added: “They like guys who work hard and who get on and do their jobs. I am not the type of personality to shake the boat up too much, I like to just come in and do my job and work as hard as I can and they appreciate that. I just always try to get better every day.”
Scott spent two seasons at Gloucester, from 2016 through to 2018, but the Premiership the Scotland international experienced back then is very different from what now exists. “It’s more difficult now,” he reckoned. “I don’t know whether that is because I am older. I genuinely have seen a difference, the quality of the player, squads are better now, they are deeper, they have got a lot of foreign talent that can come in if there are international guys away with England.
“Each game is incredibly tough. It’s such a relentless league, such a good league to play in, especially with fans back now. For me, that is the appeal of it. There were times with no fans and it’s difficult to get up every single week for these hugely physical games but such a good league. I love playing in it.”
Rob Baxter reckoned last Thursday it would be "pretty difficult" for Jones to practise coaching at a Premiership club but that is what the England boss has done this week https://t.co/OoGPEjNpkq
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 10, 2021
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now