ANOTHER corner-piece of Oldham RL Club’s 2017 jigsaw was put in place today when Gareth Owen, described by coach Scott Naylor as “one of our main men”, signed a new one-year contract with his hometown club.
It will tie the 24-year-old former Salford Red Devils hooker to Roughyeds for his third full season — one in which Naylor is backing him to play even better than he did in the Championship campaign that’s just finished.
Used as a hooker, a half-back and even a full-back at times, Owen played in 31 of his team’s 33 games, he and Kenny Hughes sharing dummy-half duties to spearhead Oldham’s attacking momentum at source.
“He’s versatile, intelligent and he’s got a good kicking game,” said Naylor, of the man who believes Oldham will face even bigger challenges next year than they did in the season that’s just finished.
Owen says the inclusion of derby rivals Rochdale; of Hull KR or Salford; and maybe of Toulouse Olympique will make KP Championship 2017 a fantastic competition.
He added: “It was a massive achievement just to stay up this time, but next year there will be more full-time teams to cope with and more derbies, especially if Salford come down.
“Hopefully, we can continue to recruit well and bring in more reinforcements to add to Ben Davies, our new prop from Whitehaven.”
Owen said he loved playing for his hometown team and although his current agreement was nearly up he hadn’t looked around or considered a move.
“I was never going anywhere else,” added the former Waterhead junior. “I think we all enjoyed this last season. Playing in different positions didn’t faze me.
“I loved playing 80 minutes at No 7 (scrum-half), but hooker still has to be my dominant position.”
Naylor said he expected Owen to have a big season in 2017 on the back of lessons learned this year.
He went on: “He has a good eye for the right play at the right time and he understands how we want to play as a team.”