​Ex-Howe of Fife flanker Jamie Ritchie named as Edinburgh’s player of year

Jamie Ritchie playing for Edinburgh versus Munster at the capital's Hive Stadium earlier this month (Photo by Ross Parker/SNS Group/SRU)Jamie Ritchie playing for Edinburgh versus Munster at the capital's Hive Stadium earlier this month (Photo by Ross Parker/SNS Group/SRU)
Jamie Ritchie playing for Edinburgh versus Munster at the capital's Hive Stadium earlier this month (Photo by Ross Parker/SNS Group/SRU)
​Former Howe of Fife flanker Jamie Ritchie has been named as current club Edinburgh’s player of the year.

​The 27-year-old, a product of St Andrews’ Madras team, was presented with that prize at the United Rugby Championship club’s awards night on Saturday at Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

Ritchie was delighted to receive that acknowledgement following a season that saw him stripped of his club’s captaincy in October and his country’s ahead of this year’s Six Nations and credits the backing of his club head coach, Sean Everitt, for the form that earned him that accolade.

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“I was a little bit emotional on the night,” the 49-times-capped Scotland international said afterwards.

Jamie Ritchie, left, and Rory Darge at a Scotland rugby training session at Edinburgh's Oriam in March (Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group/SRU)Jamie Ritchie, left, and Rory Darge at a Scotland rugby training session at Edinburgh's Oriam in March (Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group/SRU)
Jamie Ritchie, left, and Rory Darge at a Scotland rugby training session at Edinburgh's Oriam in March (Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group/SRU)

“It’s been a good year, challenging at times, but it’s an honour for me and hopefully what I put out there every weekend has kind of been showing I’m doing all right.

“If you include the Rugby World Cup, then it was a real high going out there and being named as captain. I was full of confidence and then it was frustrating personally being injured before half-time in two games.

“Then I came back and felt like I started the season well for Edinburgh, but there were a couple of quiet games going into the Six Nations, being in and out of the team, but I came back to Edinburgh and Sean backed me. He said ‘look, I think you’ve been playing well beforehand and are playing well now’.

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“He backed me and kept his confidence in me and that kept my confidence in myself, and I feel like I’ve been playing pretty well.

“Rugby is funny. It’s quite subjective and driven by opinion and narrative around a lot of things. Sometimes the games come to you and sometimes they don’t.

“It’s funny that when you’re confident, it comes to you a bit more and you get yourself in positions and that’s kind of how I’ve felt over the last few weeks.

“I’ve maybe worked a bit harder in games to get myself into positions. I’ve been a little bit more selfish in what I’ve been doing.

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“It’s been a reasonable year for getting on the ball. I feel I’ve contributed well to the team.”

Ritchie reckons he’s coped well with losing one armband after another and, adding insult to inury, also being dropped from Scotland starting XVs by head coach Gregor Townsend.

“From getting into the national team, it’s been relatively smooth sailing for me. I feel like I’ve been first choice for most of that time, without trying to sound arrogant,” he said.

“These things come along and I feel I’ve proved myself to myself, and it didn’t change who I was if I wasn’t getting selected all the time as far as how I’d be in the environment and what I’m contributing off the field.

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“I’m proud of how I’ve handled that. Not letting the frustration get to you is the main thing.

“It’s natural and important that you feel disappointment and a little bit of frustration if you feel you are deserving of or missing out on something you want, but it’s how you respond that is important.

“When you’re in the Six Nations group, when you’re not in the team environment, it’s not about forcing yourself back in.

“If you’re not selected for the game that week, it’s about preparing the team as well as you can and that’s how I looked at it. I’m pretty experienced in terms of international rugby, so helping the guys around me who are maybe not as experienced in my position or helping guys like Rory Darge with his leadership are ways I can contribute, so I can try make a difference to the team at the weekend even if I’m not playing.

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“Obviously frustration and disappointment are natural. I’d be worried if I didn’t feel that, but there are other things in my life I can focus on – the bigger-picture stuff like family – and I have some really good friends away from rugby that I can talk to about these things.

“All I can do is face it head on – have good conversations with the coaches, things like that – but at no point is it going to benefit me to go in a strop and be really upset about it.

“I understand the way rugby is. It’s super-subjective. A coach can make or break your career. If someone doesn’t like you so you don’t get into a team – or you might get injured – these things happen that are often outwith your control.

“The only thing you can control is how you handle yourself and what you put into it. I’ve always been content with what I’ve done, and that’s all I can base that on.”

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Edinburgh’s next game is away to Benetton on Saturday, with kick-off at 1pm, and a win in Treviso would guarantee them a place in this summer’s URC play-offs.

They’re currently seventh in the table, level on 49 points with their eighth-placed Italian hosts and Johannesburg’s Lions, in ninth place at the moment and outwith the cut-off point to make the play-offs.