Wildcat's Murrayfield strike

SAD TO say, but Scotland are about to lose their scrum-half and skipper to England where he hopes to give his professional career a boost. It's all true – but just before Mike Blair wakes his lawyers on a Sunday morning, the player in question is Danny Brough, Scotland's rugby league scrumhalf and captain in last year's World Cup.

Brough, who plays for Wakefield Wildcats, has now thrown his lot in with England but he will get the chance to step out at Murrayfield next weekend when Super League's Magic Weekend travels north of the Border for the first time.

Brough at least has the benefit of being and sounding entirely English, with the sort of Yorkshire accent that is most often associated with Hovis commercials. His father's father, however, hailed from Aberdeen, which allowed Brough to play for his adopted country when he was overlooked by England.

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At the time the diminutive scrum-half stated: "Scotland gave me my first international chance and I owe them some loyalty." That loyalty has now been elbowed aside by raw ambition.

"I haven't actually changed (allegiance] yet," explains Brough. "I think my agent must file some papers or something, but I will. I just needed a change, a new challenge and I am ambitious. I'll throw me hat in the ring and if it works out, then good."

The rugby league man is a clich's clich. In addition to the broad accent, he never uses a sentence where a phrase will suffice, or a phrase when he can get away with a grunt. Brough is notoriously shy of the press although the press is becoming quite enamoured of him. One newspaper report talked about three defining aspects – "his talent, his character and his dodgy mullets" – although the paper failed to explain that the mullet would as often as not come with multi-coloured highlights including the red, white and blue of his club.

The little halfback is a pocket battleship who stands just 5ft 7in off the ground and tips the scales at a modest 12st. What he lacks in inches he makes up for in aggression, a feisty character who punches well above his weight. Brough also kicks goals from all angles and it was thanks to his late drop goal last weekend that his side scraped through against Hull. Coincidentally, he did the exact same trick to win the Challenge Cup final for Hull against Leeds a few years back under the tutelage of John Kear. The same man now coaches Wakefield and few know the little half-back better than his boss.

"Danny actually started life as an apprentice at Wakefield but he didn't make it here first time round," says Kear. "That was probably because people were not sure about his character, he didn't apply himself. He spent some time in the championship (second division] with York City Knights and I think that served as a bit of a wake up call. From then on his career has been on an upward curve.

"I suppose I have a similar approach to life as Danny does. We both have our quirky ways but we get on pretty well. I suppose two misfits make a good fit. I know Danny is no choirboy but it's a little like keeping a dog. As the saying goes, stroke him nine times but remember to kick him once in a while.

"Danny was unlucky because he missed the first five or six weeks of the season with a shoulder injury so the other England half-backs got the jump on him. But if he maintains his consistency he will be a contender, if not for the England starting spot, then at least for the bench place behind Rob Burrows. I think Burrows is better attacking with the ball in hand but Danny is a better kicker. He worked with England kicking coach Jon Callard when he was at Hull and Danny is now a points machine."

Wakefield will play the Bradford Bulls in the second of three Saturday matches but, while the rugby league fans will fill Edinburgh's nightspots, the players will be on the bus back home. Kear's team should beat the Bulls but the coach admits that if it doesn't happen he and the rest of the team knows that it isn't the end of the world; two recent experiences have given them a better perspective what is really important in life.

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In October of last year, Wakefield's 31-year-old Cook Island prop Adam Watene died during a training session and, as if that tragedy was not enough for one club to endure, in March of this year 21-year-old Leon Walker dropped dead during a reserve team match outing against the Celtic Crusaders following a neck injury. It was a double blow that rocked the club and affected many players far more than they are perhaps willing to admit.

"I don't think it was a situation of the players wondering whether or not to carry on playing," says Brough, "it was something we just had to put to the back of our minds. We're professionals who are paid to do a job and we had to carry on but it was two very sad lessons. It was heartbreaking."

The player's sentiments are echoed by his coach Kear who calls the blow beyond comprehension. "I think it brought us all closer together as a group because we had to support one another. It was a tragic incident and of course it affects different people in different ways. The club hooker Sam Obst was training with Adam when he died and he was playing with Leon when his accident happened.

"It's been tough. We had counselling and we now have a common bond holding us together. It is an inspiration to the team which is a sort of self-help unit. People talk about must-win matches but there are no such things. You get a better perspective on life after something like this."

The club seems to have reacted in the best way possible, sitting fourth in the league ahead of this weekend, locked on points with those in second and third place. Wakefield finished eighth last year but if their early season form is anything to go by, they should do better this time round and look well positioned for a run in the end-of-season play-offs.

The Magic Weekend was in Cardiff last year when 30,000 turned up to watch but those numbers should be beaten by Murrayfield, especially if a few locals take advantage of two-day prices starting at 25. "I just hope the Super League puts on a good show, a fitting spectacle for all the fans in Scotland," says Kear, and Danny Brough would probably agree if he hadn't taken the opportunity to slip away long ago.


Saturday May 2

Salford City Reds v Harlequins RL (3pm)

Wakefield Wildcats v Bradford Bulls (5pm)

Wigan Warriors v St Helens (7pm)

Sunday May 3

Huddersfield Giants v Celtic Crusaders (12.30pm)

Hull FC v Castleford Tigers (2.45pm)

Catalans Dragons v Leeds Rhinos (5pm)

Warrington Wolves v Hull KR (7pm)