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Jackson column: Aled still hoping to brew up business

Aled Brew in action against the Barbarians

It was never meant to be Aled Brew’s last match for Bath, a cruelly brief appearance fully four months before the season’s scheduled close.

Leicester at home in late January brought the Welshman’s road at the Rec to a sudden dead-end. When injury put him out of action within the opening quarter, nobody watching his early exit imagined they wouldn’t be seeing him again.

Brew had still to find a way back when the season went into lockdown and all that entailed, not least a 25 per cent cut in pay. By then he was on borrowed time which ran out this week with the expiry of his contract.

It leaves one of the more durable Test wings of his generation confronting the reality of being on the wrong side of 30 with the domestic game staggering through straitened times as never before. Having spent half his life in professional rugby, Brew is searching for a new club reinforced by the conviction that his time has not run out.

He started with the Ospreys as a 17-year-old straight out of school. This summer he will be 34, hardly a novice but younger than at least two other Test wings still playing in their late thirties.

Vereniki Goneva, 36 two months ago, has left Harlequins for Stade Montois in the French second division. Adam Ashley-Cooper will be coming up 37 when he takes his inter-continental career from Asia to America by rocking up to Austin, Texas for next season’s Major League Rugby.

Brew has good reason for believing he isn’t finished yet. “I’m looking to do another year or maybe two,’’ he says. “That’s the plan. My agent’s on the case, talking to a few people. No concrete offers so far and I can’t see anything happening until August but I’m pretty hopeful.

“It’s an awkward time to be out of contract, what with the financial crisis in the game and so much uncertainty. All I can do is keep training hard so that I stay in shape ready for whatever turns up.’’

Since signing his first professional contract with Swansea, Brew has played for Ospreys, Dragons, Blues, Dragons, Biarritz, Dragons, Bath and Wales – nine times over a span of five years. He cites a largely anonymous third spell at the Dragons as one reason why he has more mileage left than most players of his age.

“I hardly played ten matches for the Dragons in the two seasons before I signed for Bath,’’ he says. “That has prolonged my career and I feel as though that’s still the case.

“As professionals, we all live with the fact that one day it will be over. At various stages of my career, senior players have said: ‘You need to start thinking now about your future after rugby because you never know what’s round the corner’.

Bath wing Aled Brew
New avenues: Aled Brew is plotting his next steps after leaving Bath in June. Getty Images

“I’ve done quite a lot of work experience over the last eight years. That allowed me to dip my toe into various fields, like surveying, construction and business management. I’ve also done quite a lot of stuff with the RPA (Rugby Players’ Association).

“I certainly don’t feel my time has come and it would be nice to finish my career in Wales. If nothing comes along then I’ll switch to Plan B. I’ve been talking to a company which specialises in floodlighting installation and the possibility of joining them as a project manager. Ideally, I’d like to carry on playing.’’

Brew knows only too well that too many players are not afforded that luxury. His older brother Nathan, capped by Wales just before the 2003 World Cup, is among the multitude forced through injury to quit before his time, in his case at 28.

Born to a Ghanaian father and Welsh mother, the Brew boys grew up in Gwaun-cae-Gurwen, the birthplace of Sir Gareth Edwards. “There weren’t too many black kids growing up in the Swansea Valley but we were lucky to have had a really good group of friends,’’ says Aled.

“My brother experienced some racial abuse when he went to Argentina with Wales. It’s still rife but I was only subjected to it once, playing for the Dragons in Belfast. A couple of spectators were chucking the N-bomb around shortly before I scored a try which was the best response.

“Maybe I should have kicked up a fuss. Instead one of our management contacted the Ulster management and told them what had happened. As far as I know, nothing came from it. I’ve never encountered it since.’’

In the best of all worlds, he will be able to say that again this time next year after one more season.

PETER JACKSON

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