Big day for the Cowburns

Date published: Wednesday, April 10, 2013

AS a boy growing up in Royton, Phil Cowburn used to day-dream of the day he would play full-back for Oldham Rugby League Club.

He was a Roughyeds’ ball boy, an active member of the Junior Roughyeds and club mascot for the day when a team then coached by Mike Ford took on Widnes Vikings at Spotland in the 2001 Northern Ford Premiership grand final for the right to go up to Super League.
He was Roughyeds’ mad . . . but on Sunday in Cheltenham, and now a 22-year-old student of sports development, the same Phil Cowburn will be lining up at full-back for the University of Gloucestershire All Golds against the team he and his father George still support.
“Funny how life turns out,” said Phil, who was studying elsewhere in Gloucestershire and playing rugby union when he was invited to join Brad Hepi’s All Golds for their entry into Kingstone Press Championship One.
Back home in Thornham, George has meticulously recorded teams and match details of Oldham and their opponents in every game they have played since the ‘new’ club’s first-ever outing in a Law Cup win at Rochdale on New Year’s Day, 1998.
Come Sunday, his immaculate Roughyeds record book will include the name of his own son.
Said George, who has supported Oldham for 50 years and even now rarely misses a game at Whitebank: “Phil’s dream was always to play for Oldham, but to play against them will still make it a very special day for him.
“It will be even more special if Michael Ward is in the Roughyeds’ squad because they were school pals in Royton, first at St Aidan’s and then at Our Lady’s.
“Phil still comes with me to watch Roughyeds when he is at home, but I’ll have to divide up my time a bit now and watch the All Golds as well.”
Phil, who has also played for Rochdale RU Club, was in the All Golds side that won at Gateshead Thunder in the Northern Rail Cup and in the team that beat Hull amateurs Skirlaugh in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup last Sunday to earn a home fourth-round tie against Oldham’s Super League partner club Salford City Reds.
Looking ahead to Sunday’s game, he said: “For me to be lining up against Oldham will be surreal. I’ll have to pinch myself.
“I’m looking forward to it, and if Wardie (Ward) is playing that will be something else. I’ve known him since I was eight or nine.
“The club here is very professionally run and we have terrific training facilities as well as a top coach in Brad Hepi.”
The 45-year-old New Zealander played himself at stand-off against Skirlaugh, but he isn’t thought to be planning an encore on Sunday.
He’ll be taking a watching brief . . . like Phil’s dad George and his mum April.
And which team does George want to win ?
“I’ll happily settle for a draw in this one,” he said.