MOORSIDE-BORN Gareth Owen will continue to captain OLDHAM RLFC under the tutelage of new head coach Matt Diskin.
Hooker Owen (27), who never misses an opportunity to say how proud he is to skipper his home-town club, will be captain for the fourth season in a row when newly-promoted Roughyeds start their Championship campaign against Widnes Vikings at Bower Fold on Sunday, February 2.
“It was an obvious choice,” said Diskin, who spent nearly a decade as a hooker — a job that demands key, tactical decision-making — in a classy Leeds Rhinos side.
In his two months in charge of pre-season training, Diskin has learned a lot about his players and he is in no doubt about Owen’s qualities as a player and as a man and about his credentials for the responsibility of on-field leader.
Said the Roughyeds’ new team boss:
“In the time I’ve spent with the group I’ve seen not only his leadership skills, but also the huge respect in which he is held by the other lads.
“He’s chuffed to keep the job and I know how much it means to him.”
Owen, who still lives in Moorside, succeeded Lewis Palfrey as captain when Palfrey transferred to Rochdale Hornets after leading Roughyeds to promotion in 2015 and then overseeing their first season in the Championship in 2016.
Owen’s first season as skipper, 2017, was a difficult one for him and for the club.
Scott Leatherbarrow came in to replace the influential Palfrey at outside-half, but both Leatherbarrow and Owen had big shoes to fill at a much higher level than in the previous season.
To make things even more difficult, the squad was ravaged by injury after a reasonable start in the first two months.
Owen himself suffered a freak foot injury in a rearranged 20-16 midweek defeat by Dewsbury at Bower Fold on June 21 and he didn’t play again all season.
In the same match, full-back Scott Turner suffered the last of several concussion injuries and after much soul-searching he took the decision to hang up his boots.
Danny Langtree also suffered a knock that kept him out for several weeks.
In total Roughyeds used 39 players over the 32-match season and players like Owen (11 starts plus seven on the bench), Turner (14 appearances), Richard Lepori (15), Langtree (23), Liam Thompson (20) and George Tyson (22) were all hit by serious setbacks.
Relegation inevitably followed and although it was a bitter disappointment for Owen in his first year as captain, he learned a lot.
He has since grown into the captaincy and was thrilled to lead Roughyeds up to the Championship again after two seasons back down in League 1.
At the higher level he will be determined to put the record straight after what happened in 2017 and Diskin is sure he’s the man to lead from the front.
He hasn’t yet appointed a vice-captain.
“There are a few leaders in the squad , but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,”