It was clear that Worcester didn’t rate me when they made me a pretty derisory offer at the end of my two-year academy contract. So, I decided to go and get myself a management degree, at university in Nottingham. While there, Craig Hammond, our coach and Nottingham’s captain, invited me to training.
It looked like my Nottingham career would be over before it had even started when I fell off a wall, a drop the size of a double-decker bus, on a drunken night out. I broke my hand and was knocked unconscious but, luckily for me, it was right outside A&E.
Once fully recovered and wanting to give professional rugby a real go, I stayed up in Nottingham after my first year to do a full pre-season and it paid off as I played pretty much every game in the first two seasons. Unfortunately, an injury wiped out most of the following year.
Martin Haag came in as coach for my final year and we played some really good rugby, culminating in me winning Championship Player of the Year, which I was really proud about. We had an exciting set of backs and a dominant pack and finished second to Newcastle in the regular season only to blow it in the play-off semi-final against Bedford.
Wasted opportunities at Wasps and then Leicester, as a dual registered player, plus the Worcester disappointment meant I was determined to get into the Premiership one way or another, and in the February of that final season at Nottingham I was signed by Saracens.
It was a pretty tough start with the likes of Brad Barritt, Joel Tomkins, Duncan Taylor and Marcelo Bosch all ahead of me in the pecking order. Eventually, an injury opened the door and I made my Prem debut at Exeter and did well. I played quite a bit after that, including scoring off the bench in the European semi against Clermont. Towards the end of that first year, physically I was probably at my best.
I signed a two-year deal but issues with my groin started to flare up and then, when I got back fit, I suffered a rector phenmorisis tendon quad injury when someone went into the back of my car on the way to training. Somehow I managed to get through the LV=Cup semi against Tigers that week after taking a load of painkillers but it tore during the final against Exeter, which we won.
I had back surgery in my third year so that was a complete write-off but Sarries still offered me another one-year contract with the hope my injuries were behind me. Sadly, I never got back to the point where I was fit enough to challenge for a place. I ruptured my knee in training and that was the thing that forced me to retire. It was tough to take but I was lucky to have had four incredible years with such great blokes at an amazing club.
One thing I was gutted about was just missing out on international rugby in November 2010. I was 48 hours away from making my Scotland A debut only to be told on the Wednesday before the Friday kick-off at Gala that my paperwork hadn’t come through. My Gran was Scottish through and through and I was brought up listening to my mum singing Flower of Scotland when the Six Nations was on but, unfortunately, it turned out that neither was actually born there. My gran would have been but her parents, my great-grandparents, couldn’t get back in time because of the war, so she was born in Persia. I suppose I could have played for Iran!
After taking a year out I am now keen to get back into sport in some way or another, while continuing with the cold-press cocktail company, Raw Spirit, that myself and Mike Ellery started up.
as told to Jon Newcombe
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