Beattie has game to go with the name

JOHN Beattie made one of his biggest mistakes as an aspiring rugby player last week, but typical of the youngster he will not make it again.

The name will sound familiar, but while his father’s tones chunter on across the BBC Radio Scotland airwaves this morning, the 18-year-old is quietly preparing to help Aberdeen Grammar School FP add Currie to a growing list of top-flight scalps.

Recalling last week’s low point, he says: "It was a schoolboy error, really, and it definitely will not happen again. I was last into the showers and, having celebrated my 18th birthday the day before, the boys stole all my clothes and I had to borrow a pair of tracksuit bottoms to walk home in."

Beattie laughs it off more easily than he does any mistake he makes on the rugby field, the product of the current Scotland age-group system and Caledonia Rugby Academy displaying the same serious approach to improvement that one finds with many aspiring young professionals.

There is definitely something in those Beattie genes, as young John and his sisters are all making their mark in the sporting world. The Aberdeen student captained the Glasgow Primary Schools football team and played with Rangers Boys Club before reaching the national U16 and U19 cricket squads.

His sister Jennifer is following in his soccer footsteps, having captained the Glasgow schools last year and this season stepped up her involvement with the Arsenal Ladies team in Glasgow. Younger sister Julie is also a keen hockey player at Jordanhill School.

The sporting genetics are not a surprise, of course. While his father was a good enough rugby player to win Scotland and British and Irish Lions caps, his mother, Jill, comes from rugby stock with her father Bill Dudgeon a former centre for Gala in the 1960s and her Calder cousins - including legendary Scotland and Lions skipper Finlay - having left their sizeable imprints on the Scottish game.

But genes only take a person so far. In fact, they can prove detrimental, with the burden of expectation or a complacency drawn from being carried through teen years by God-given talent, wrecking prospects before the senior, hard stuff begins. And while his club coach Damien Reidy admits he would be interested in putting John into stud, on account of his gene pool, were he a racehorse, it is the youngster’s own attitude, work ethic and ability to learn which has made him stand out and be noticed.

Beattie has a refreshing, easygoing approach to sport, to the extent that he was a bit reluctant to be featured in a national newspaper "when there are plenty better players than me around". He is as enthusiastic about his MA in Property and Business at Aberdeen University and states he has no idea whether a professional rugby career beckons simply because "I don’t know if I’ll be good enough".

"People know who my dad is, but he has had little influence on me to be honest," he said. "There has maybe been a bit more expectation there, when people hear the name, but when I first came to Aberdeen Damien said to me ‘I know you might have a reputation through your father, but I couldn’t care less. If you want to play here, it will be through what you do, nothing else’.

"That was brilliant because it takes away any suspicion that somebody might be giving you a chance somebody else isn’t getting because of your dad, and means everything I get is on merit.

"Dad used to try and put me off rugby because of the injuries you can get. I know him and mum are behind me, as they are with my sisters, but they leave me to get on with it myself which is the way I want it - I want to do things off my own back."

Currently flitting between the middle and back rows, the 6’4" Beattie last year played for Scotland Under-18s and, now fitting a Murrayfield session every Tuesday into a five-days-a-week training schedule, is targeting a spot in the FIRA U19 World Championship team which competes in South Africa at the end of this season.

Reidy admits: "I don’t like building players up, but it is exciting as a coach working with youngsters like John and the talent and attitude they have.

"The first week here he was standing in front of me, trying to make sure I noticed him, and, unlike some young boys, had no worries about forcing himself forward. It wasn’t in a cocky, big-headed way, just quietly making sure I saw him. I quite like that, and it’s been incredible watching him come through.

"He played well for the 2nds, and then got a chance because we had injuries in the top team, and he took it with both hands. I’ve even got Andrew Wilson back from the Glasgow pro team for this weekend’s game, but I’ve jiggled things to make sure John’s still there. He’ll have ups and downs, but when he’s played for us recently, he’s brought a new life to our game."

The most pleasing fact is that while Beattie is proving himself to be a talented rugby player, he is not alone in the ranks of youngsters setting their sights on professional careers.

Reidy added: "John is quite a talent, but there are a number I’m seeing now coming through with the help of the academy systems and the coaches they have working there.

"I have heard in the last few days coaches talking about the under-21s who played New Zealand last week, and how there are a few of them now really pushing for professional contracts. I know that a lot of the pro players are also very worried about that, because they see these young boys coming through with skills and a great attitude. Some of them should be worried, but that’s very healthy for our game.

"I believe that by the time we get to the next World Cup, we’re going to have a new breed of young player coming through in Scotland. We’re only seeing the start of it now, but in the next four years there will be a noticeable difference in the quality of player coming through from the youth ranks to club and professional rugby.

"I don’t want to put pressure on individuals, but with guys like John developing, I’m really positive about Scotland’s hopes in the World Cup in France in four years’ time."