South West Wales, to South West(ish) Nottingham, is a path travelled well by West Bridgford RFCs tight end prop, Owen Howells, and, although they say that, home is where the heart, his is firmly entrenched in the Nottinghamshire stronghold.
Rugby though, it has been in Owen’s blood for a good fifteen years or so now, stemming from his days back home, with spells for local club, Tycroes RFC, and in the Welsh Premiership with Llandovery RFC (a feeder club for Scarlets), both in his native Carmarthenshire.
“I started playing Rugby when I was about twelve-years-old, having played football for a little while prior,” began Owen.
“Moving on to playing rugby, that jump was a pretty straightforward one, the harder part was when you move from youth, into seniors rugby, but my coaches really helped me transition, which was great.
“I moved to Nottinghamshire for work though, about four years ago now, and, although I initially struggled to settle, things quickly picked up for me when I joined West Bridgford.”
Not only did his joining West Bridgford help Owen settle in the area, this past season, in the aftermath of a global pandemic, and due to extenuating circumstances elsewhere, Owen would find himself installed as captain, in the short-term absence of Callum Gunn.
It was a move that he took with open arms, and has, in his own way, led from the front, literally, and both he, and the club, have had a season to remember, one which will see the club, next season, be performing at the next level.
“When we were last promoted (Midlands 2 East (North) champions, 2018), a couple of seasons ago, we finished mid-table,” explained Owen, looking back on recent successes with the club.
“Then we finished in third place the season before the pandemic hit, so it’s been a case of, let’s win our home games, and beat Derby.
“Getting promoted again, that wasn’t really on the cards for us, just yet anyway, but we know we’re more than capable of stepping up.”
The season just finishing however, one which has seen West Bridgford’s First XI finish runners-up in the league, and gain promotion from Midlands 1 East (North), has, admittedly for those at the club, been a long one, especially coming off the previous two years.
Those behind the scenes at the club though, they’ve continued to work wonders, a point which hasn’t been lost on the playing staff, and supporters alike.
“Without people like Graeme (Gunn, Team Manager) and Gaz (Gareth Kerr, Coach), we could have struggled,” admits Owen.
“People like those, they keep the club going, and are the reason, along with the Mrs, that kept me here, not that I’d go anywhere else (he laughs).
“Taking the captains band, this season, it was a no-brainer for me, and I’d been trying to push up the standards beforehand anyway,
“Being in the front row, I’m one of the closest to the officials, so you get a feel of things.”
Although the season began with defeat, away to eventual champions, Bedford Athletic, who they play in the final game of the season this weekend, it has been one that has gone from strength-to-strength.
Defeat to Bedford has been one of just four West Bridgford have suffered throughout the season, and, although they halted any title charge, it galvanised them enough to claim second spot.
“It has been a tricky season, with a few, different things thrown into the mix,” added Owen.
“But we’ve just worked around it; the loss to Bedford, in the opener, that was okay really as it kick-started the season for us.
“Some of the scores though, it doesn’t really portray how much teams came at us, like they have done, all season, but we’ve all come through it really well.”
With that one game remaining this campaign, at home to champions Bedford Athletic, focus will always turn to the future, for both player, and club.
Owen though, he’s not planning on going anywhere, at all, well, other than on some new, different, away days next season that is – time will tell what the powers that be bring forth there.
“I’ve invested a lot into this club, and the area” stated Owen, “so no, I’m not planning on going anywhere.
“I’d love to continue playing until at least forty, and I’m just as excited now, than when I started.
“I can’t wait for the long, away days, and it’s good to have those kind of step-ups, for ourselves, and for any new players coming into the club.”
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @BridgyRugby Owen Howells in action for West Bridgford.