Hometown hero Dean proud to hit 100
A one club man through and through, there perhaps aren't too many players that personify Edinburgh Rugby and its values as much as centre Chris Dean.
Hard-working, driven and now on the cusp of becoming a centurion for his hometown team, Dean will realise a dream when he runs out against Sale Sharks at AJ Bell Stadium tomorrow night, making his 100th appearance for the capital club.
For Dean - who made his professional debut in September 2015 - it has always been a goal to hit the 100 mark for his boyhood club, especially when growing up idolising those who wore the famous jersey before him.
"It’s extremely exciting to make my 100th appearance. It was always a goal," said Dean.
"When you see the names up on the board in the team room when you first join, it was something I felt was unrealistic at the time, or a long way away, but it’s crept up.
"To be able to be a centurion for the club I grew up supporting and the only one I have ever played for is something pretty special and not an achievement I’m taking for granted."
Dean will this weekend become the 34th player in club history to reach the landmark appearance, joining a plethora of club legends that Dean can now count himself part of moving forward.
"The likes of Simon Taylor, Simon Webster and Mike Blair are the kind of guys I remember absolutely adoring growing up," continued Dean.
"And then also the guys I’m playing alongside now, like Stuart McInally, Grant Gilchrist, Cornell du Preez, Hamish Watson – you’re certainly on a board with a lot of fantastic names, so to be up there alongside them is pretty cool. It’s extremely exciting and a privilege."
At just 26 years old, Dean has reached centurion status at a relatively young age, especially considering the centre missed the near entirety of last season through injury.
After an impressive try-scoring run to start the 2017-18 season - Cockerill's first year in charge - Dean followed it up with an equally as inspiring 2018-19 season where he played a pivotal role in driving the capital side to the Quarter-Finals of the Heineken Champions Cup.
These were all moments that spurred Dean on to reach the promised land of 100 appearances.
"It became apparent when Cockers arrived. I knew Cockers coming in was a big deal, with the aura he bought with him it was pretty apparent that it was going to be very cut-throat as to whether or not you cut the gravy with him.
"So when I played a fair bit under him in his first two seasons and we had a decent run in Europe, I could see that the number was getting closer and when I re-signed I was pretty sure I could make it to 100 if I pushed myself.
"It’s a massive privilege because when I set my career goals out one of them was to be a club centurion. I’ve always felt it’s a pretty special thing to be a part of that club, to have shown that loyalty to the club, especially one that I grew up supporting.
"So it’ll mean a huge amount to me and I’ll certainly go out there with a huge amount of pride. Wearing that shirt with a 100 on it will be pretty special. It’s very exciting for me."
Although hitting 100 is clearly a momentous moment for Dean, his attention has not turned from the task at hand - facing a hugely talented Sale Sharks side this Saturday night.
A win against the English Premiership side club would kickstart Edinburgh's season after a disappointing start to the campaign, something Dean knows all too well.
"It’s been a tough start to our season. The whole Autumn Cup and players being in a bubble so not being allowed to come back to Edinburgh was difficult.
"But it’s two fold – you obviously want guys to be experiencing international honours, so it’s great in that sense, but we had to fight hard in training with the group of guys we had and we learned a lot in that period.
"I do think we are looking for a kick start to the season because we’ve probably a little bit let down by the start we’ve had - but there’s still a lot of rugby to go."
"You’ve got to believe in yourselves and believe in the hard work you’ve put in and that the processes you’ve put in place are going to work on the day. It’s vitally important for us to keep our heads up.
"We know it works because a lot of our games have been so close – look at the weekend against La Rochelle, the top team in France, when we were there at the death with opportunities to win."
There will be plenty of storylines to look out for this Saturday - from the Van der Merwe brothers facing off, to an epic clash of superstar back-rows - but keen an eye on Dean, the local boy done good who simply dreamed of representing his hometown team.
"I’ve always wanted to play for Edinburgh, and always have done," continued Dean.
"There’s that underlying sub-conscious connection to the club which I grew up supporting, whose jerseys I grew up wearing. It’s been a pleasure to wear the Edinburgh jersey."