THE story of one of Halifax’s rugby league greats is told in a new book just published
The life of Welsh goalkicking fullback Garfield Owen is told in A Welshman in Halifax by rugby league writer and Halifax Rugby League Football Club historian Andrew Hardcastle.
And at the book’s launch at the Shay, Halifax’s giants of rugby league queued up to pay tribute to one of the greatest rugby league fullbacks of his generation.
Kel Coslett, a Welsh international in both rugby union and rugby league, who scored 1,639 goals and 45 tries in 15 seasons with St Helens, said Mr Owen was “a wonderful kicker, a wonderful player and a wonderful man”.
Also present at the launch were legendary Halifax players, forward and coach Les Pearce, stand-off Ken Dean, forward and centre John Burnett and St Helen’s giants Billy Boston and Geoff Pimblett.
Mr Owen played rugby union for his home-town club, Llanharan, as well as Maesteg and Newport and won six caps for Wales before joining Halifax in 1956. In six seasons with Halifax he played 166 matches, scoring 535 goals and four tries for 1,082 points before going on to play for Keighley for four seasons, where he smashed goalscoring records and also became coach before retiring in 1965. He also played for Wales in rugby league.
Mr Owen is a member of the Halifax club’s hall of fame, one of only 38 players to be so honoured out of the roughly 1,500 players who have turned out for the club since it was formed in 1873.
Mr Owen was talented in many sports other than rugby. Andrew Hardcastle told the audience of players, officials and fans at the book launch that he had had been a international schoolboy cricketer, a record-breaking athlete with the javelin, a local golfing champion in Wales and for many years a crown-green bowler, being a member of Stafford Bowling Club, Halifax.
Mr Owen was known as a gentleman, both on and off the field, who, said Mr Hardcastle, would congratulate an opposing player who did well.
“Occasionally a good winger would get past him and Garfield would applaud, even though that didn’t always go down well with his own players.”
Rugby was a part-time sport and Mr Owen was also a teacher but he later turned to selling cars with Central Garage in Horton Street, Halifax.
On retirement he and his wife, Marlene, chose to stay in Halifax rather than return to Wales.
Since the 1990s Mr Owen has suffered from Parkinson’s disease and has organised fund-raising events for Parkinson’s UK, which put on a display at the book launch.
Profits from A Welshman in Halifax will go towards research into Parkinson’s disease.
Andrew Hardcastle, a retired school teacher, lives in Paddock Lane, Halifax.
He has been Halifax RLFC’s club historian for the past 30 years and has written five other books about the club as well as one on former local cricket clubs.
A Welshman in Halifax, published by London League Publications at £12.95, is available from the Halifax RLFC supporters’ shop at the Shay and Fred Wade’s bookshop in Rawson Street, Halifax.
Inset picture: Keighley RL team 1962: back row, from left, Syd Phillips, Frank Haigh, Geoff Crewdson, Eric Redman, Sid Hebden, Brian Wright, Bill Sharpe and Mel Smith. Front row, Garfield Owen, Gordon Brown, Geoff Dudley, Roy Sabine, Bleasby