MOORSIDE-BORN Gareth Owen will continue to captain Oldham RLFC under the tutelage of new head coach Matt Diskin.
Hooker Owen, 27, who often says 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.
Roughyeds’ new boss said: “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.
The squad was ravaged by injury, including a foot one sustained by Owen against Dewsbury in June which ruled him out for the remainder of the season.
Relegation 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 back to the Championship again after two seasons back down in League 1.
• OLDHAM got off to a winning start under the command of Diskin with a 22-18 triumph at Barrow Raiders on Sunday (Jan 5).
The first pre-season game of the new decade did not count for a lot in real terms, but Diskin felt it produced “lots of positives”.
That applied especially in the first 20 minutes when Roughyeds raced into a 16-0 lead with two tries and two conversions by debutant full-back Dan Abram and a third try in the corner by former Saddleworth Rangers’ Harry Aaronson.
Oldham lost their way after that and Barrow went in at half-time only 16-14 down.
Diskin’s men regained the initiative in the second half despite going down to 12 men when Lewis Charnock was sin-binned. They scored a fourth try by Danny Bridge, again goaled by Abram, while a man short.
Barrow’s only score of the second half was a cracker down Oldham’s left side when the speedy Thee Ritson went in from long range.
Roughyeds are at Rochdale in the Law Cup on Sunday, January 12, kick-off 3pm.
• Former Oldham forward and Barrow coach Frank Foster has died aged 79.
The tough-as-teak Cumbrian, who ended a glittering playing career at Oldham, died in Barrow on Saturday, December 20, aged 79.
Foster helped transform Oldham’s fortunes in his one and a half seasons at Watersheddings in the early 1970s.
A formidable opponent, he was renowned as one of the hardest and meanest forwards of his era, while possessing sublime ball-handling skills and the strength to hold off defenders while slipping defence-splitting passes to supporting colleagues.
He came from Barrow in January, 1972 in the twilight of his career and at a time when Oldham were struggling in the bottom four of a one-division set-up.
At the end of Foster’s first season, by which time Oldham had moved 15 places up the division, local historian Mike Turner wrote: “In more than 35 years watching Oldham no player has ever made the same immediate and positive impact.”
Since learning of the death of fearless Frank, Turner added: “He was, without doubt, one of the truly great Oldham forwards.”
Foster had previously played for Workington, Hull KR and Bradford and he made 47 appearances at Oldham before hanging up his boots at the end of the 1972-73 season and returning to Barrow as coach.