Things are set to get tougher for Edinburgh next year with the news that Fraser Mackenzie is leaving the club to join up with Richie Vernon at Sale Sharks. It seems that no longer is it a case of Edinburgh and Glasgow developing young players until they are established test players, now the bigger clubs are swooping to sign folk after just a season (or less) of decent performances. At the moment it really feels a bit like a closing down sale, and clubs with money are scrabbling for whatever bargains they can find left on the shelves.
Edinburgh have countered this by announcing that hope for the future and Macphail Scholarship man George Turner (age 18, of Stewart’s Melville) is set for a pro-contract this year. Given he lines up behind current captain Andrew Kelly and current international Ross Ford (being rested) as well as Alun Walker, he’ll find it tough to get in the team. The rumblings out of Stew Mel suggest he may be up to the task when he gets back from New Zealand though. Having said that, Ross is one of the Edinburgh players who could have done with maybe getting out of his comfort zone to a different club, but I suppose we’ll keep all the internationals who will stay at this point.
Has the development set-up has learned from the likes of Kurtley Beale of Australia and decided to start chucking our promising talents in at the deep end a bit younger? After all it seems to have worked for Richie Gray. It’s just a bit annoying it’s taken this long for them to work it out, when many of us have been calling for new talent to be brought in earlier for ages. Either we’re developing players to feed the national side (and by proxy the Top 14 and AP), or we aren’t. If we aren’t, then sign some decent names and let the teams be competitive.
On the other hand, a pessimist could ask: is the departure of another one of our genuinely improved and exciting players truly offset by the addition of what could be another potential “professional trainer”? (I hope for George and all of them it’s a “no”). After all, every year they announce new academy signings (Alex Blair anyone?) but every year the actual team that takes the field is made up of largely the same faces and the academy players dribble back into Premier One. And every year the pro-teams still lose another couple of good players to the big bucks.
Edinburgh’s results this year have shown that at the moment, the two sides of the in/out scale are very unbalanced.