GARETH Owen, Oldham Rugby League Club’s new captain, has said he will put his heart and soul into the job.
“To lead my home-town team is a massive honour,” added the 24-year-old former Salford hooker, soon to start his third full season with the club he and his family have supported all their lives.
He succeeds Lewis Palfrey, now a Rochdale Hornets player, who was Roughyeds captain for four years and led the side to promotion from League One to the Championship in 2015.
A link with that leadership is provided by the retention as vice-captain of Sammy Gee.
In another new move, however, the class of 2017 will have two vice-captains in Gee and in the man who will succeed Palfrey as leading half-back and midfield general, Scott Leatherbarrow.
As captain on and off the field, Owen recognises he has a big role to play in how this new-look Oldham (six new signings as well as the change of leadership) will go in their second season of Championship rugby.
He said: “It’s a lot of responsibility and I’ll take the job very seriously, but to be honest I’m chuffed to bits about it.
“I was given a few days to consider it, but I could have accepted there and then. I was never going to say no. It was a surprise to be asked, but I was delighted because it’s something I’ve fancied for a while.
“I feel comfortable with it. I’ve always been one of the most vocal members of the side, so nothing will change there. You can’t be one of the quiet ones playing at hooker.”
Everyone in the club was disappointed with the poor performance at Swinton in a pre-season game, but they suffered similar first-day blues at Keighley last year and then went on to have their best season in ages.
Added Owen: “Last season was all about staying up. This time we’ll be a bit more positive. We are not even thinking about going down.
“Some people have tipped us for relegation, but we can use that as motivation. We know it will be tough, but we are aiming for mid-table. We’ll take each game as it comes and see where we are at the split.
“We’ve had one of the best and toughest pre-seasons I’ve ever been involved in. We’ve recruited well too.
“It’s difficult for me to put into words exactly what the captaincy means to me. It definitely makes it a bit special because I’m proud to be Oldham born and bred.
“My mum and dad have supported Roughyeds all their lives and although I was only a small lad when the old club died they used to take me regularly to Watersheddings and then to watch the new club when it started up.
“I think my appointment is as big a thing for them as it is for me.”