THE fastest rugby winger in Britain turned out last Saturday for

Scottish fourth division side Livingston, and scored a try with his

first touch.

This may be good news for rugby, but not for Scottish athletics, as it

heralds the end of Elliot Bunney's track career.

The former European junior 100 metres champion, the most prolific

sprint title winner in Scottish athletics history, is on the way out at

27 -- just a year older than the age at which Linford Christie won his

first championship medal.

''I hate to use the word retirement, but it's very doubtful if I will

ever race again,'' said Bunney.

0 His life has turned upside down since returning from the

Commonwealth Games last month, as he has faced the reality of life after


Besides playing his first rugby match in more than a decade, Bunney

has taken on greater responsibility in his job as athletics development

organiser with West Lothian District Council. This week he began a

leisure management course, and yesterday he moved into a new home in

Mid-Calder with his fiancee, international 400m runner Mel Neef.

Most telling of all, he speaks of the ''mental relief'' at abandoning

the weekly athletics regime of six training sessions which helped him

win relay medals in Olympic, European, and Commonwealth championships,

plus 23 Scottish titles.

''That's been replaced by two rugby training nights, two weight

sessions in the gym, and a match,'' he says. Plus the kind of Saturday

social life that he sampled only with occasional frenetic enthusiasm

during the previous decade.

''If I prove to be useless at rugby, I might go back to athletics. But

I can't see it.''

The omens for a return are not favourable. As well as pace, he has

sound hands and-- by all accounts -- a relish for the tackle that may

speedily pass him to greater heights.

Bunney is quick to point out that today's rugby match against Lismore

will be only his second since third-year schooldays, as a stand-off at

Bathgate Academy.

''I might be rubbish,'' he says in typical self-effacing fashion. ''I

have got so much to learn. I just want to enjoy it, and see what

happens. I don't want to make predictions as to how good I might be.

''I know Nigel Walker has done it, but it is pretty difficult to pick

up the game after 12 years, and go on to play at the highest level.''

Walker is the former international hurdler now capped by Wales. But

his status as Britain's fastest winger (best legal 100m time, 10.47) is

eclipsed now that Bunney has picked up the ball.A fastest time of

10.20sec. earned him the title of the Bathgate Bullet, sharp enough lead

out of the blocks for the UK squad which won Olympic relay silver in


There would be a certain sense of history if the man who surpassed

Eric Liddell's record of five successive Scottish sprint victories were

to emulate Liddell by playing rugby for Scotland.

''I had thought about doing the New Year sprint, now that it's open,''

said the Edinburgh Southern Harrier. ''But I decided against it. A third

Commonwealth Games isn't a bad note to end on.

''There is no way I could do the Scottish Athletics League for

enjoyment. I could not face being thrashed by people who would never

beat me if I prepared properly.

''It is very hard to let go. Training became a way of life. When you

run 10.20 at 19, you think the world is at your feet.

''Injuries did not help, but I have never run any faster than I did

then, and that's dispiriting. I now have to recognise that I won't ever

win an individual championship medal.

''It is time I began to live like a normal person, thought about a

mortgage, qualifications, and a career.

''I trained harder for these last Commonwealths than I ever did in my

life, but the standard in the 100 has rocketed. I got to the final

twice, but was leapfrogged this time.

''Drugs? I despise those who take them. You just have to get on with

it. There is no use pointing the finger without evidence, even though

you know what's going on. But I really am naive. My coach, Bob Inglis,

identified Ben Johnson as a steroid cheat when he beat me in 1986 -- I

refused to believe him!''

By resisting a fearsome temptation, watching while the less scrupulous

would squat, muscle-pumped beside him, then overhaul him, Bunney

deserves great credit.

And on a wing and a prayer, we hope his graceful running has yet to

become just a memory.