All Golds on a mission

Date published: Friday, July 11, 2014
THE University of Gloucestershire All Golds, to give them their full name, come to Whitebank on Sunday (3pm) with a record they can be proud of.
With the season two thirds gone, they are the only team to beat both Hunslet and York, hot tips for promotion.
And wouldn’t they just love to complete a hat-trick by knocking over the other top-three side, Oldham, this weekend.
Lots of fans in the north refuse to give clubs like Gloucester, Oxford and Hemel the respect they deserve.
In Gloucester’s case, don’t be fooled by the “University” tag. Yes, they have close ties with the county’s principal seat of learning, whose director of sport, Dr Andrew Pitchford, is club chairman.
Some of the players who were in the university side that conquered mighty Leeds Met to become British Universities and Colleges champions in 2012 formed the backbone of the All Golds’ squad in their first season.
A few of them remain, like centre Phil Cowburn, half-back Matt Bradley and forwards James Walter, Joe McClean and Mike Stewart.
Callum Mulkeen, a centre who played a few games for Oldham’s second team in 2012, followed the same path from uni to All Golds, but has since moved to Oxford.
The All Golds have come a long way in a short time. 
And highly-rated coach Steve McCormack, who has masterminded five wins from seven games since replacing Kiwi Brad Hepi in May, believes the club can go from strength to strength.
“The environment and culture are first class,” he said. “There are no comfort zones. Players know they have to play well to keep their places. 
“For me, a massive positive is having an under-19s side. Three or four players, all Gloucester lads, are pushing for first-team spots.
“Frank Foster has been outstanding for an 18-year-old kid and we’ve a few more like him waiting for a chance.”
In his ten weeks at the club, McCormack has suffered only two defeats, Oldham winning 30-22 at the Prince of Wales Stadium and Hemel winning 22-14 on the same ground last Sunday.
To show that their 24-22 home win against York was no fluke, McCormack’s men travelled to Hunslet three weeks later and caused the upset of the season by winning 23-16.
Among their key men are a couple of Oldhamers in centre Cowburn and half-back Ben White.
Cowburn, whose parents live in Thornham, was an Oldham fan from being a small boy, like his father George before him.
He played his early rugby at Rochdale RU Club, as did Bury boy Bradley, now Gloucester’s ace goalkicker after a spell with London Skolars.
Cowburn, Bradley and Mulkeen (now at Oxford RL) headed to the West Country for their university education and and were cherry-picked by the All Golds.
In stark contrast, White was reared on Saddleworth Rangers. His father, Tim, was a prop at Shaw Hall Bank Road and young Ben came up through the junior section before going off to St Helens and later to Leeds Rhinos, where he is still under contract.
He is one of the All Golds’ five loan players, comprising of White (Leeds Rhinos), Miles Fairbank and Jarrod Ward (Halifax), Jason Muranka (Dewsbury) and Casey Canterbury (Hunslet).
Full-back Danny Thomas and hooker Craig Cook are also born-and-bred rugby league players, having played on the circuit in Yorkshire for several years.
A students’ side ? The All Golds are a little bit more than that — as York and Hunslet will testify.