Five years on from the injury that ended his professional career, Andy Buist has revealed his comeback with Tynedale is not putting him on a path towards the Premiership.
The former Newcastle Falcons lock played his first competitive game of rugby last weekend since the knee cartilage injury which dashed his move to London Irish, starting and scoring a try in Tynedale’s trip to Henley Hawks.
This weekend facing local rivals Blaydon in the National One derby, Buist insisted: “This is not a comeback in the sense of me trying to play professional rugby again.
“I got injured when I was 24, and where I was meant to go as a professional player is not in the forefront of my mind. What I am trying to do now is just get involved in the game again and, while I have been coaching during the past few years, I have really missed the playing side.”
Making 59 senior appearances for the Falcons over six seasons, he said: “The injury I have got cannot be healed and I have not suddenly got a better knee, but within the past year my body just seems to have adapted to it.
“I have been able to do a little bit more, and I have missed it. That silly little rugby player inside me kept saying I should give it a go – so here I am.”
Having three operations during an 18-month rehab period which ultimately ended with his retirement, Buist has since taken up a role as a development officer with the Northumberland Rugby Union.
Reporting positive early progress after a full pre-season with Tynedale, he said: “It is literally week by week, and we will just see how it goes.
“Playing at Tynedale is still a decent level, although obviously different from the Premiership. National One is a very competitive league, and there is the social element to it, too.”
An eventful return saw him scoring a try as well as getting sin-binned, Buist joking: “I would like to say the try was from 90 metres, but 90 centimetres is probably still stretching it!I was fortunate in that Grant Beasley had already done all the hard work for me, and I just had to ground the ball. It was a true lock-forward’s try, but I will take anything I can get at this stage.
“I didn’t even do the full 80, because I spent ten minutes in the sin-bin for a ‘professional foul’. I can’t wait to see the video, but there was a slight disagreement over the referee’s definition of a ruck.
“I personally didn’t think it was a ruck, but I guess after a few years out these are the kinds of things that can happen.”As competitive as ever, the joy of completing the game unscathed was off-set by the result.
He said: “From the injury perspective in terms of getting through the match it was fine, although from a personal and team performance point of view it was disappointing losing 51-17. We had a crazy 20 minutes in the second half where we shipped a load of tries, but to get through the match was quite pleasing for me.
“It highlighted a few areas where I need to improve, notably getting back into the defensive line. There were a few occasions where I was not quite in the right place and I got caught out, but these are all things I can work on.”
Welcoming Blaydon to Corbridge on Saturday, Buist said: “I am looking forward to it, and it should be a good occasion.
“A lot of the lads know each other, so there will be personal battles between them which all adds to the spice.
“Micky Ward and Hall Charlton are still packing down for Blaydon, who I know well from my time at the Falcons, and it should be a lot of fun.”