Hunslet’s Alex Rowe keen to make sure every game counts after so long off

IT IS in times like these that veteran Hunslet forward Alex Rowe is glad of such a considerate and understanding boss.

BACK AT IT: Hunslet's Alex Rowe takes some stopping by the Town's defence. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Like many semi-professional players, the former Batley Bulldogs favourite had to get up for work yesterday morning – just hours after playing his first League 1 game in 14 months.

The 2020 campaign was halted by the pandemic after just two rounds in March last year and never restarted.

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However, after a delayed opening, the 2021 season did get underway at the weekend as players finally got back into action.

Fortunately, after a bruising 28-16 defeat to Workington Town in South Leeds, the 36 year-old Rowe was afforded a little bit of a softer start to his other day job yesterday.

“It’s been a while since we played League 1 – we’ve had something ridiculous like 14 months off – so I am feeling a bit sore this morning,” he conceded to The Yorkshire Post.

“I’m a bit battered and bruised. My back’s a bit tight but it was good to get back into business.

“It was really exciting to be back out there playing after so long away. At work, I normally start at seven in the morning and finish at five or six. I drive mobile cranes for a company called Cidon in Leeds.

GOOD TO BE BACK: Hunslet's Alex Rowe. Picture Tony Johnson

“But my boss is pretty alright. I’ve been able to get up a little bit later on today and not worry about getting in and messing about with the crane.

“I’m just waiting for another site to open so I’ve been working in the yard instead.

“That’s a big thing isn’t it? Someone who looks and sees you enjoy rugby and knows you will be a bit sore the next day so they look after you like that.

“They always do at work. I’ve been here about three years now.”

FAMILIAR FACE: Hunslet's Dominic Brambani. Picture: Tony Johnson

Rowe hails from London but has spent most of his career playing in Yorkshire with clubs such as Doncaster, Sheffield Eagles and Batley having initially briefly played for Castleford Tigers.

The powerful prop had contemplated retiring before deciding to have one last crack.

“I played a Challenge Cup game against North Wales for Hunslet last year, then a couple of League 1 games before the Cup tie with Featherstone Rovers, but then Covid hit and it was all off,” recalled Rowe.

“I didn’t do any pre-season as I was debating whether to retire .

LEADING MAN: Hunslet coach Gary Thornton. Picture Tony Johnson

“But Hunslet is only five minutes from my house and, luckily, I’ve been based with work in Leeds on York Road and that’s literally five minutes from Hunslet, too, so the stars have aligned.

“I’ve a few good friends down there like Dom Brambani and Simon Brown who I’ve played with previously.

“They asked me to go down and it’s gone from there.

“I’ve missed it all quite a bit during the pandemic.

“Being a bit older, every game counts now and I’ve not got many left so I just wanted to get out there and help Hunslet as much as I could.”

As frustrating as missing more than a year of action was, he feels he used his time off well.

“We had a few 5k runs to do and stuff kept getting put up in the group so I actually lost quite a bit of weight,” recalled Rowe.

“I feel much fitter now, really good, and I think having a year off my body feels re-booted and pretty decent. Any niggles I’d had before, I feel are back to normal.

“I’m probably a bit slower and obviously older, but still all right.”

It is fitting that the former Jamaica international is rounding off his career with Brambani, Hunslet’s half-back and captain, who is also now 36.

They started out together at Castleford in 2005 – when the Super League club had been relegated – playing alongside the current Tigers captain Michael Shenton and Australian stars Brad Davis and Andrew Henderson.

They were also team-mates at Sheffield and Batley but were powerless to prevent defeat on Sunday.

Hunslet were level 12-12 with Workington early in the second period but conceded two tries in as many minutes to see the game slip away from them.

Rowe admitted: “It was a bit of a wake-up call.

“We didn’t do too bad in the friendlies but we got a few injuries yesterday. It’s like everyone else; I think a lot are picking up injuries quite easily as we’ve had so long off.

“We got five or six knocks in that Workington game. As for the season, though, I think we’ll go OK. Hopefully we can get into the play-offs and then it’s knock-out rugby. I do think we can beat anyone on our day. There’s some strong teams like Keighley who have spent big and a few others who have done the same.

“Barrow will be strong this year but it’s anyone’s game if you can get in those play-offs.”

Keighley certainly showed their potential with a 44-18 win over Doncaster.

But Rowe and Hunslet now turn their attentions to a trip on Saturday to North Wales Crusaders, who started off with a 44-22 success at London Skolars.

Rowe will relish it: bumps, bruises – and especially a little more recovery until Monday morning comes around again.