Centurion McKenzie retires
Club centurion Fraser McKenzie has today announced his retirement from professional rugby with immediate effect.
McKenzie, 33, hangs up his boots following a 15-year rugby career that saw the lock make 119 appearances for his boyhood club, alongside spells at Sale Sharks and Newcastle Falcons.
The Dunfermline RFC talent – who joined the Edinburgh Rugby academy in 2006 – calls time on his career under medical guidance having suffered a series of shoulder injuries that have kept the lock out of action for over a year.
“Obviously there is a never a right time to retire or give up the game you love doing, but unfortunately your body tells you when it’s time to stop and for me that’s now,” said McKenzie.
“I suffered a shoulder injury against Scarlets last year and I rehabbed it fully throughout the lockdown period, but then coming back to face Glasgow Warriors in August 2020, I dislocated it again, which meant I had to go for further surgery.
“It’s been an accumulation of injuries and my body has definitely been struggling with the rigours of professional rugby.
“At the end of the day, I’m still a young man and I’ve had a good innings throughout my career. Injury means that I’m stepping away, but I’m proud of what I’ve achieved.”
A former Scotland U20 captain, McKenzie joined the club’s academy straight from school in 2006 and made his Edinburgh Rugby debut at home to Connacht in September 2009.
The lock made the move south to join Sale Sharks in 2011 – followed by a spell at Newcastle Falcons in 2013 – but returned home to the Scottish capital in 2014.
McKenzie’s first try for the club was a vital one, with the lock crossing the whitewash in the 18-23 Challenge Cup Quarter-Final victory over London Irish in April 2015.
Head Coach Richard Cockerill then named McKenzie club captain in 2017-18, with the lock leading Edinburgh Rugby to a first-ever PRO14 play-off appearance against Munster in Limerick.
“Looking back, I’m most proud of getting a professional contract with the club that I grew up supporting and watching – that’s been huge for me." Fraser McKenzie
“I’ve also been able to travel the world and see plenty of places, while I’ve also been able to experience playing for different teams and different clubs.
“I’m really happy that I was able to finish my career here and have a good stint at Edinburgh. To finish at this club, who have supported me so well, is a big thing for me.
“Captaining the team and leading us to the play-offs for the first time in 2017-18 was amazing and that season was a great success.
“It made me really proud as a player to do that. You play with some terrific players, but when you captain them, you just feel quite humbled by it all.
“Making my 100th appearance for the club was a big one as well. There aren’t too many players that have reached that landmark, it doesn’t happen too often, so to reach that number of games for Edinburgh Rugby was huge.
“Edinburgh Rugby means a lot to me. I grew up watching the team and even going to watch a game was a massive thing for me back in the day, never mind playing a game for the club. It’s been a brilliant experience."
Stepping away from the game that has given him so much throughout a 15-year period, McKenzie is now focussed on spending time with his young family that are settled in his hometown of Dunfermline.
“I’ll always be an Edinburgh supporter and I’m really looking forward to coming to games in the future and watching the guys.
“Moving forward, the big thing is to get full range in my arm as I’m still recovering from my shoulder injury.
“Edinburgh have been absolutely brilliant as I’m still getting daily physio and they have really taken care of me.
“I’m also really looking forward to getting some quality time with the family. Being a pro rugby player is so structured that you don’t get too much time away from training, travelling and playing all the time.
“It will take some time to adjust to normal life and I’m going to take some time to reflect and really focus on what I want to do in life after rugby.”
With crowds still unable to attend fixtures due to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, McKenzie has been unable to say goodbye in person to the Edinburgh Rugby supporters that have backed him throughout his playing career.
However, the lock does have a parting message to those fans that have meant so much to him during the last 15 years.
“The supporters have probably watched me grow from an 18-year-old academy kid to a 33-year-old finishing up my career now. They know just as much about my career as I do.
“I’ve really enjoyed meeting the fans that have backed me day in, day out and they have always been there, spending their hard-earned money, travelling to grounds across the country.
“The fans matter a lot to me and they matter a lot to the rest of the squad too. That’s what makes Edinburgh Rugby a real club." Fraser McKenzie
“Hopefully they can get back in the stands next season and I’m sure I’ll be able to see them there in the new stadium. I’ll be a fan too!”
On McKenzie’s retirement, Head Coach Richard Cockerill, added: “Fraz is a club legend, make no bones about it.
“He’s been a hugely important player during both his spells at Edinburgh Rugby and we’re obviously sad to see him retire – but it’s the right decision for Fraz.
“He commands a huge amount of respect from the changing room and that’s testament to the way he carries himself around the club. He’s a great example for young forwards coming through the ranks.
“Fraz has never given less than 100% and as a club centurion he will always be part of Edinburgh Rugby’s rich history, even now as he hangs up his boots.
“We wish him all the best as he steps in to life post-rugby and we hope to see him back to a match next season.”