Freddie Owsley: Football was Edinburgh winger’s first love but school switch brought rugby into sharp focus and helped sister become Olympic champion

Football’s loss is rugby’s gain, but Edinburgh winger Freddie Owsley has no regrets about switching codes – even if he found the transition tricky at first.

Freddie Owsley showed his pace with a player of the match performance in Edinburgh's win over Brive. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Freddie Owsley showed his pace with a player of the match performance in Edinburgh's win over Brive. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

The 25-year-old had a debut to remember on Friday when he scored two tries and was player of the match in the thumping 66-3 win over Brive in the Challenge Cup.

Owsley, also an athletics prospect, used his footballing nous for the first score, fly-hacking the ball on from his own half, then outpacing his opponents.

“I used to play a bit of football as a kid, it was always my best sport,” said Owsley who was attached to Bristol City. “I do like it on my left foot, so it was a case of keep tapping away because you’ll beat them for pace.”

Football gave way to rugby when he and his sister Lily switched schools and it paid off for both. Lily, also a talented footballer, took up hockey and excelled to such an extent that she was part of the Great Britain squad that won gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016 and bronze in Tokyo last summer.

“I had to give up when I moved to private school for a scholarship with my sister,” said Owsley. “She hated the school and so did I for a bit because they didn’t play football. It was hockey and rugby and I was all about football at the time and just wanted to play it in the playground but no-one was. So it was pretty tough.

“But it made me focus on rugby and athletics more. It took my rugby on to a better place.”

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Freddie Owsley scores the first of his two tries on his Edinburgh debut against Brive. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Scottish-qualified through mother Jennifer from Govan, Owsley moved to Edinburgh from Bristol Bears last summer. He’s not played much rugby after pursuing athletics and was national U20 champion at 400 metres before injuries put the brakes on his track career.

Unsurprisingly, he has pace in abundance but Mike Blair said the winger’s rugby skills were improving rapidly.

“Freddie has worked really hard on his game, especially in the last three or four weeks, and I love seeing that,” said the Edinburgh coach. “Maybe it is something a wee bit soft in me that when I see that I want to reward someone for investing time and effort to make themselves better.”

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