IT’S taken more than six months, surgery, mental toughness, lots of time off work and weeks on crutches, but Gareth Owen is back running again in his determined bid to make up for lost time in Oldham RL Club’s forthcoming League 1 campaign.
Hooker Owen (25), in his first season as Roughyeds’ captain, had no idea what hardships lay ahead when he damaged his left foot in a 20-16 midweek defeat by Dewsbury Rams at Bower Fold last June.
He missed the remaining 12 games of an ill-fated relegation campaign, but the local lad’s biggest shock was to be told he had suffered a freak injury which would keep him out of rugby league for more than a year.
He wasn’t only in severe pain from broken bones in the foot; the freakish and most worrying part of the damage was a snapped Lisfranc ligament — an extremely rare sporting injury and one more usually associated with high-trauma road accidents or falls off buildings or high cliffs.
Surgery was relatively straightforward — he was in and out of Rochdale Infirmary within five hours — but worse was to follow when the Lisfranc complications were outlined to him and he was warned: “No rugby for a year.”
Imagine his joy then when, six months on, he was able to run for the first time between Christmas and New Year under the strict supervision of Roughyeds’ physio Pat Hoyte and his medical team.
It represented a major break-through in the player’s rehabilitation and raised hopes that he could be playing again by March, at least three months ahead of schedule.
He said: “I’m well in front of the original medical forecasts and that’s due to all the advice and assistance I get on a regular basis from the medical team at the Roughyeds. If I wasn’t a sportsman with access to that professionalism and regular rehab work I wouldn’t be at the running stage yet.
“The broken bones were not a major issue; it’s the snapped Lisfranc ligament that’s caused all the problems, but I’m definitely on the right side of things now and I look to be winning the battle.
“To be honest I got a lot of pain in my ankle when I ran for the first time, but I had another run last Saturday morning and I had a lot more mobility and a lot less pain.
“It’s going to be a long job and probably several weeks yet before I can start full training, but after all this time out there’s no point in rushing things or taking chances and perhaps putting myself back.
“There’s no way of telling how long it will take. I just have to keep moving forward and then seeing what reaction there is, if any.”
Prop Phil Joy and second-row man Danny Langtree are also looking forward to the new season, having had surgery last year.
Joy played only four games in 2017 after twice dislocating a shoulder and then undergoing major surgery to rebuild the joint.
Langtree missed the latter part of the campaign because of a ruptured bicep and he too went under the knife to repair the muscle.
Craig Briscoe is also itching to play again. He missed the whole of 2017 and played only seven games in 2016 after wrecking a knee on debut in a pre-season friendly at Barrow, the club he had recently left to join Oldham.