It is a measure of Garfield Owen’s quality and profile as a rugby union player in the 1950s that his signing of a Halifax rugby league contract was televised live on the BBC’s Sportsview programme.
One of the most gifted full backs of his generation, Owen moved north from Newport and fell in love with West Yorkshire, where he still lives now. The title of his biography, A Welshman in Halifax, could not be more apt.
“Penning a deal with Halifax had other repercussions, for he was instantly regarded as a professional in all sports. Not only was he now barred for life from rugby union – or so it seemed at the time – but even more ridiculously it put an end to his athletics career. He had missed qualification for the Welsh javelin team for the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games held in Vancouver, Canada, by six inches. The 1958 Games were to be in Wales, so would have been good to aim for…”
Author and Halifax RLFC club historian Andrew Hardcastle charts Owen’s career from his early days in south Wales through to spells at Halifax, Keighley, and his current work fund-raising to help research into Parkinson’s disease.
There is plenty of detail about Owen’s life away from the rugby field, including how he took a job at Rishworth Grammar and later made his way in the motor trade, but it is Owen’s on-field exploits for which he is known.
A Welshman in Halifax reveals how Owen used to practice his goal-kicking wearing a boot only on his left foot, “forcing him to kick with that, and making him almost as adept with it as his right.”
As Hardcastle notes in his closing words, Owen was “in both union and league… an outstanding player, reaching levels to which all but a very few can only dream.”
A Welshman in Halifax: Garfield Owen – rugby footballer, by Andrew Hardcastle, is out now. ISBN 978-1903659557, published by London League Publications Ltd. It is available to buy here.