Gloucester Rugby: Alex Brown looking to make difference in new role
Alex Brown is relishing the two-way interview process at Gloucester.
The Kingsholm stalwart has to keep his options open, but would love to forge a coaching career with the Cherry and Whites.
ENFORCED premature retirement threw Alex Brown's plans up in the air.
As the shock started to subside, the accomplished Gloucester lock knew he could fall back on his property management portfolio.
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He could even push forward into property development – but he admits he would rather help Kingsholm's building work instead.
The 33-year-old has been co-ordinating Gloucester's lineout since learning not even surgery could repair his shoulder well enough for a return to action.
But he has also been helping rugby director Nigel Davies with the Kingsholm club's recruitment plans, as well as assuming a rugby operations role too.
Cherry and Whites boss Davies is trying to accommodate Bristol-born Brown into his backroom staff in the long-term, admitting he might have to make a decision as early as next month.
Brown himself concedes he will need to know well before the summer, so he can start planning his next move.
The course of any rugby retirement never runs smooth, but Brown is as relieved as he is delighted to have options ahead of him.
"Coaching would be great long-term," Brown explained, "I enjoy doing the specialist lineout stuff, niche coaching really.
"I enjoy the recruitment side, getting involved with some of that, and just the operations with the players, and looking after players' needs really, that's an exciting role.
"And I'm hoping that something will come off the back of it, and I'll stay around.
"It's almost like an extended interview process.
"It's a good opportunity for them to see if they need someone in that position.
"And also for me it's a good chance to see if it's exactly what I want to do, but we'll see how it pans out.
"My role hasn't changed on the lineout front really, except I'm obviously not playing any more. I was doing exactly what I'm doing now when I was playing.
"And actually I found it a lot easier as a player because I was right in the thick of it.
"Now the big challenge is to get that message across to the other players, to be able to explain it well and impart that knowledge.
"Before I had it in my head, and that was fine, but now it's all about sharing that, and that's a great challenge that's a lot of fun.
"I think that specialist work can make a real difference to sides.
"There's so much detail that perhaps not even the front-rowers need to know it.
"But success ultimately often comes through the level of that detail.
"The other side of things is different, and challenging in its own way.
"I'm so passionate about the sport, and to help identify players who could be potential recruits for the club, that's exciting.
"It's something that could prove very rewarding in the long-term, seeing players progress, and it would be great to have that chance to be involved with that.
"I'll need to know what's happening before the summer from a planning viewpoint, so in the next couple of months we should know what's happening next."
Tuesday night's Rugby Players Association's Business Club networking evening at Cheltenham's Hotel Du Vin got Brown thinking about his own future.
But it also had him praising the charity that looks after England's professional players.
A host of Worcester and Gloucester stars mingled with local business people, bending ears about options in the 'real world', to borrow RPA chief executive Damian Hopley's term.
The networking evenings are part of the RPA's Player Development Programme, designed to help players build second careers.
Brown could not find enough praise for the initiative, with the RPA in some cases helping academy players with part-funding for professional qualification courses.
He said: "It's important to have big interests outside of rugby, to help for life after the game, but also for your own sanity really.
"Rugby can take over your life, and if you're not careful it can be all-consuming.
"So it's definitely good to have something else going on in the outside.
"I've been lucky enough to manage a few properties, and I can still continue doing that whatever happens next.
"I could increase that into the development side, because I do enjoy that.
"Whether it will be full or part-time though, that just depends on what I do in other areas.
"You can go at it full-on and treat it like a full-time job if you want to, but at the same time you can dip in and out.
"It's a very flexible job, and it would complement what I could do for Gloucester really well.
"These networking evenings are good on so many different levels.
"It's a great chance to pick some brains about possible careers, especially for the young guys.
"So I think it's a very valuable exercise all round.
"The RPA has grown and grown every year, and it's doing more and more for the players.
"Certainly when I started there was nothing like this, and it's testament to the organisation's progression that these are the norm now.
"It's a great springboard, and businessmen and women who attend are massively helpful."