Rejected Waite counts cost of failure

Scotland's first major squad session since the season kicked off was a timely reminder of the serious targets laid before the country’s leading professionals.

However, it also served to remind others of what might have been. Nearly 20 players who escaped the early purge of 60 when the Scottish Rugby Union merged the four district teams into two, found themselves redundant at the end of last season. For them, three years and more had been given to the pro game, only for their careers and ambitions to be abruptly cut short.

It is the harsh reality of a professional sport where failure to make the grade can mean not just demotion to the 2nd XV, but a wage cut of anything between 30,000 and 100,000 per year and a "dead end" sign for an ambitious career path.

Martin Waite was one of many Glasgow players who didn’t fit into coach Richie Dixon’s plans, and the Scotland A and Scotland Sevens forward has returned to his profession of chartered surveying in Edinburgh. "I had always kept my hand in with Barr Brady, who allowed me to work part-time, so it hasn’t been as tough for me as some," he said. "But it was very hard to take, to be told that you’re not wanted and your career in rugby is over.

"And it’s amazing how quickly your life changes as well. Instead of getting up around 9am to go to training and getting home in the afternoon, now I’m up at 7am, into a suit and not home before 6pm, with rugby training on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights, which means I don’t see my wife much. It’s been quite a culture shock for both of us."

Waite has made no secret of the fact that he feels his chances to progress to a full Scotland cap were hampered as much by the number of "pseudo-Scots" imported to the Scottish game as his own failings, and also feels the pro game in Scotland has allowed a lot of talent to waste away by failing to find games for the 20 or so players not picked for the 1st XVs.

Now a team-mate of Waite’s at Watsonians, former Edinburgh flanker Iain Sinclair was recognised as one of the most promising youngsters of his generation at Scotland Under-21 level. However, three years on, and 23 months out of 36 spent injured, and he is turning his back on rugby.

"I was gutted to be told I was not wanted anymore," he admitted. "I feel unfulfilled because I didn’t get a proper opportunity to prove myself after coming back from a serious ankle injury, but you have to move on.

"The career path I’d mapped out to a blue jersey at the highest level is gone, but I’m due to take up a job with recruitment consultants next month, and I now have to channel my ambitions - I’m still as ambitious as ever - into work."

Former Glasgow prop Willie Anderson was released more because of his age, 34, but he admitted: "Pro rugby is not a great life for a married man.

"I have no regrets about trying it, but travelling up and down to Wales in buses takes you away from the family a lot, and isn’t enjoyable. Rugby has always been about fun for me and professionalism has taken a lot of fun out of the game. I’m now back working as an electronics engineer and am player-coach at Howe of Fife - three wins from three games, by the way - and I’m really enjoying my rugby again."

There are clearly lessons to be learned from the experiences of the first crop of pros to be axed, still a fairly new phenomenon in rugby - a key one being don’t expect it to last forever.