Mike Brown is not a dirty player – but a second of madness ended a storied Harlequins career

·4-min read
Mike Brown the Harlequins fullback looks on during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Harlequins and Wasps at Twickenham Stoop on May 09, 2021 in London, England.  - GETTY IMAGES
Mike Brown the Harlequins fullback looks on during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Harlequins and Wasps at Twickenham Stoop on May 09, 2021 in London, England. - GETTY IMAGES

Mike Brown's appeal against the six-week suspension which brought an end to his Harlequins career has been unsuccessful, the Rugby Football Union announced on Wednesday.

Brown was banned for six weeks after stamping on the head of Wasps' hooker Tommy Taylor. The former England full-back has been at Harlequins for 17 years and will join Newcastle Falcons next season.

The timing of the suspension ruled Brown out of Harlequins' remaining four regular season fixtures, along with a potential appearance in either the Gallagher Premiership semi-finals or final should Harlequins have progressed to that stage, ending his time at The Stoop having made over 350 appearances for Harlequins.

An independent panel statement following Tuesday's hearing said: “The appeal was dismissed. The Appeal Panel did not accept the submissions that the Disciplinary Panel had come to a decision to which no reasonable body could have come, particularly bearing in mind that the burden is on the player to establish on the balance of probabilities that no reasonable Disciplinary Panel could have come to the same conclusion. The original sanction stands.”

Harlequins are currently in a strong position to make the play-offs, nine points clear of fifth-placed Northampton with three rounds to go, with a potential Premiership semi-final marking the fifth game of Brown's ban.

Should Harlequins fail to make the Premiership final, then the last game of Brown's six-match suspension would be completed at the start of next season with Newcastle.

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Comment: It is hard not to feel sorry for a sad end to Brown's Quins career

By Gavin Mairs

When Mike Brown left the pitch at the Stoop on Sunday and took his seat in the stand, his ashen face suggested he already knew that he would never step foot on the famous turf again.

The consequence of the sanction was to bring his 16-year-plus association with the club to an ignominious end.

The red card offence was deemed reckless enough to warrant a top-end sanction, with a minimum entry of 12 weeks, but even though his ban was reduced by full 50 per cent in mitigation, by the time he is able to play again, the season will be over.

It is rare for any disciplinary sanction to be deemed top-end, and by doing so reflected the seriousness by which the panel regarded the offence, even though it was judged to not have been a deliberate action.

The panel were right in their thinking. It reflected the move to protect the risk of injury to the head and while Brown was adjudged to not have deliberately targeted his stamp there, it could have left Taylor with a serious injury. The zero tolerance approach will act as a deterrent for others.

What was equally apparent though was Brown’s remorse at his actions. He had already apologised to Taylor before he had left the pitch on Sunday. The look on his face as he sat in the stands for the remainder for his side’s thrilling victory over Wasps was that of a man who could not believe what he had just done.

The judgement of the hearing when it is published will no doubt reveal the full details and sequencing of the incident, but in the moment, it appeared that he reacted instinctively to being pulled back.

It just took a second to prematurely end his storied career with the club, making his 351st game (he is the club's all-time record holder) his last.

Brown has always been regarded as a tough and aggressive player – with a resilience of character and courage so admired by England head coach Eddie Jones – but never a dirty one.

His disciplinary record backed up that perception. His red card on Sunday was the first of his career. He had previously received eight yellow cards, including one on Sunday for a deliberate knock-on, and just once in Europe. His record with England in 72 appearances, was unblemished.

It was this record, his remorse, good conduct, character references and guilty plea that saw his sanction reduced by six weeks, but even that was not enough to allow him another game for a club he has known and loved as boy and man. He is due to join Newcastle next season.

Disciplinary judgements should not be based on emotion, but it is hard not to feel sorry for such a sad end to his Quins’ career. His departure from the club at the end of the season had already been soured by its handling, with Brown claiming he was informed of his fate in a four-minute meeting that left him distraught.

Now he does not even get the opportunity to sign off on his own terms – a greater punishment than anything the disciplinary hearing could have dished out.