Owen so thankful to be back playing the game he loves
THE scars around Gareth Owen's knee tell their own tale of what the 24-year-old has been through to keep playing the game he loves.
Two years ago Owen's career was hanging in the balance after a horrific training injury that left him needing two major operations.
A member of the Ospreys squad at the time, the Maesteg product was told he would struggle to run properly again, let alone play professional rugby.
But a couple more visits to the surgeon's table — he had metal pins removed in the summer — and endless hours of rehab sees Owen fresh and ready for the start of the new season with the Scarlets.
"I love rugby and had always wanted to play rugby so it was as much about proving everybody wrong and getting back on to the field than anything else," he said ahead of tomorrow's RaboDirect Pro12 opener against Leinster in Llanelli.
"After the injury, and having damaged three of the four tendons in my knee I was told that it was very unlikely that I'd be able to run again let alone play rugby.
"But I was determined not to give up on my dream after the injury and I believe that shows a lot of character.
"I'm very fortunate to be able to call rugby a job and I'm probably fitter now than I've ever been and really excited for the new season."
Owen made a big impression at Parc y Scarlets last season, making 14 appearances in all and producing some composed performances, particularly in the No. 15 jersey.
He was originally signed by the West Wales region as an inside centre option, but with head coach Simon Easterby forced to reshuffle his back-three following the injury-enforced retirement of Morgan Stoddart and the departure to the Aviva Premiership of George North and Andy Fenby, full-back could be where Owen finds himself this term.
"Gareth joined us after a difficult time through injury," said Easterby. "I was surprised the Ospreys let him go in contract and we saw an opportunity.
"He had a pretty good season for us last year, but he is now in the best shape he has been for a long time."
As for Owen, like many at Parc y Scarlets, his focus is nailing down a first-team starting jersey in the opening weeks of the Pro12.
"It's a huge season from a personal perspective but also for the squad as a whole," he added.
"I'll be pushing for a regular spot in the team and there's no better place to start than at home against the reigning champions.
"There are a few players in the backline that can cover different roles and that gives us flexibility to play an expansive and exciting brand of rugby.
"We're a young squad but we also have a British and Irish Lion and a number of international players in the squad like Jon (Davies) and Rhys (Priestland) who can offer invaluable experience to the younger boys.
"You also have players like Ken (Owens) and Phil (John) among the forwards who have a wealth of experience which the younger guys can benefit from.
"There's a great mix of players here at the moment and it's a very good environment to be involved in.
"We did well to get where we did last season (play-offs), but we now need to improve on that and push on now."