HOOKER Gareth Owen, club captain for the past three seasons, is the latest member of the promotion squad to cement his future with Roughyeds.
He’s signed a new one-year deal with the intention of enjoying a better time in the Betfred Championship in 2020 than when Roughyeds were last up there in 2017.
Not that they didn’t compete. They opened up with a 26-10 home win against Sheffield and lost the next two by two points — 8-6 at Featherstone and 20-18 at home to London Broncos.
They went on to beat Bradford and Swinton at home before losing at Halifax — again by two points.
A win at Dewsbury followed but as serious injuries began to bite the only other notable win was at home to Toulouse Olympique in July.
A freak foot problem meant Owen was one of several senior players who suffered long-term injuries. Phil Joy was out for most of the season with a dislocated shoulder which needed a surgical reconstruction; Scott Turner took early retirement due to persistent concussions; and others who missed much of the season due to injury were Richard Lepori, Danny Langtree, Jamel Chisholm and Danny Grimshaw.
Relegation was particularly poignant for local lad Owen (27), who was as proud as punch to be captaining his home-town club for the first time.
After putting pen to paper on a new contract he said: “I wasn’t going anywhere else so long as Oldham wanted me again. This is where my heart is. This is where I belong.
“I wanted to get it sorted early and I’m chuffed to bits that it’s now done and dusted,
“It’s been an eventful three years as captain with a relegation (2017) and a promotion (2019) and I’m hoping we can kick on now and make up for the disappointments we all suffered two years ago when we had an horrendous time with injuries.
“We’ve got a big challenge ahead. Realistically, we’re not going to do a York, who had a big budget and spent a lot of money last year, but if we can do well against the clubs around us and nick the odd few points off teams further up the league we’ll be able to stay up and then build from there, starting in 2021.
“Learning lessons from 2016, when we left it until the last couple of games to cement our first-season survival, we want to be comfortably safe as soon as we can.
“That’s the goal for next season and we’re all looking forward to it. It’s an exciting time —- a higher division, a new coach, new lads coming in to replace those who have left us and everything to play for.”
Of the departure of head coach Scott Naylor and the appointment of Matt Diskin as his successor, he said:
“It’s going to be very different; it always is when you get a new coach.
“I played for Nobby (Naylor) and his assistant, Pete Carey, for several years and they were two of the best coaches I’ve ever had. I was disappointed to see them leave.
“At the same time I’m really excited at the prospect of working for a new coach who will no doubt bring with him different ideas, a fresh voice, new structures etc.
“Hopefully, it will be good for the club to have something different and a fresh approach.”
New boss Diskin, himself a top-class hooker in his playing days, said:
“It’s always good to retain the club captain and especially a local lad whose burning with passion for Oldham — town and club.
“Everyone I’ve spoken to about Gaz speaks highly of him. He had an accomplished upbringing at Salford where they still think a lot about him, as do lots of other people within the game.
“He’s good out of dummy half; he’s got a long, accurate pass and I’m looking forward to working with him and helping him to further develop his game.”
Several more signings are expected to be announced in the coming week.