It has proved to be a frustrating year so far for strong-running Doncaster Knights centre Will Owen but he is hoping to end it on a happier note starting with Saturday’s penultimate Championship Cup group game at Coventry.
The former Rotherham man made an immediate impact following his move to Castle Park at the start of last season, and quickly established himself as a regular starter in the Knights’ side despite tough competition for places in the middle backs.
But he started to struggle with a knee problem towards the end of the year and was booked in for what was expected to be a routine cartilage operation in the first week of January and hoped to be back playing within six weeks or so.
“I eventually came back 12 weeks later but there were complications and I had to have another cartilage operation,” he recalled.
“I was out for another seven months after that but I was told not to try and rush back too quickly and make sure that I was right.
“Obviously you have moments of doubt when you are out for such a long period of time but ultimately you have to stay positive and keep out any negative thoughts.”
When both he and the club’s medical staff felt he was ready to start playing again Owen had two run-outs with Doncaster Phoenix, playing just 20 minutes in his first outing and a bit longer the following week.
“I’m happy with how things have gone since I got back into the side but I still need to build up my match fitness and also work on those little skills which used to be kind of second nature,” said Owen.
“I know that I’ve got to be on my game to keep my place in the side because there is a lot of competition for places at centre – as there is throughout the back division and that is a good thing because it helps raise standards during the week – with the likes of Mat Clark, Lloyd Hayes and Elliott Creed.”
Owen scored his second try since his return in Saturday’s Championship Cup game against Yorkshire Carnegie.
“It was nice to score again but it was bitter-sweet due to the fact that we lost the game and how we played in the second half; we just imploded,” he said.
“We’ve now lost our last two cup games and we need to get back on the horse at Coventry if we hope to qualify for the knock-out stages.
“It won’t be easy because they have proved to be a good home side this season.
“Typically, in cup competitions, you need to win four of your group games so we need to win both of our remaining games.”
Looking ahead to the resumption of the league campaign at the end of the month, Owen said: “We’ve got two more games before we reach the halfway stage of the season.
“Our first priority is to get out of the bottom four and start climbing the table.
“To finish in the top three, which was the target at the start of the season, is probably a bit too ambitious given where we are now but we certainly want to finish as high as we can.”