Roger Owen


New Dock Stars RU- Wales
26-10-1980 v Castleford
1982- when he Retired
45 (8)

Biography of Roger Owen

Roger Owen Obituary by Alex Service

St Helens RFC Heritage Number #947

Born: Llanelli, 13th December 1953

Died: Llanelli, 20th July 2021

It is sad to report the passing of one of Saints’ Welsh imports - rumbustious front-rower Roger Owen - at the age of 67. The famous ‘Dad’s Army' team of the 1970s was breaking up by the start of the new decade and the club embarked on a period of re-building the playing squad to eventually mount a challenge for honours once more.

Roger Owen was signed by the Saints from the New Dock Stars RUFC junior club, having established a reputation as a powerful and mobile front-rower. A miner, he had also played for Llanelli and at 5ft 10ins and just over 16 stones was a positively daunting player to nullify at club level, although he had not gained representative honours in the Union code. He joined several Welshmen at Knowsley Road, including full-back Clive Griffiths, centre Steve Bayliss, winger Roy Mathias and fellow front rower Mel James.

Roger got off to a great start in the red vee with an impressive performance for the Reserves at Warrington and made his senior debut against Castleford at Knowsley Road on 26th October 1980, with Mel James in the front row and Dennis Nulty at hooker. Saints lost 5-8 with a try and goal from full-back Griffiths, but Roger certainly did not look out of place.

The 26 year old ‘wrecking ball’ soon became a big crowd favourite as he smashed into the defensive line, his chunky, almost barrel-like appearance reminiscent of Leeds front rower Steve Pitchford. Long-time supporter Adrian Lawrenson recalls that the bearded one had “an intimidating on-field demeanour towards his opponents. He was a hard-working forward who would never shun the ‘hard yards’ whilst at the same time rousing the supporters with his aggression and never-say-die attitude.”

One of the abiding images of Roger, by cameraman Brian Peers, showed him absolutely caked in cloying mud during a match at Knowsley Road against Warrington in those challenging winter conditions. He was a real character and was also rarely seen without his trademark fishermans’ hat.

“He was a powerful man for sure,” remembers his former Coach Kel Coslett. “He was a great scrummager too, coming from Union, when scrums were well-contested in rugby league too in those days.”It was a challenging time for the club in the early 1980s, with inconsistent results and not much money available. Yet Roger did play in two semi-finals for the club, in the Challenge Cup during his first season [lost 5-22 against Hull KR] and a Lancashire Cup semi-final loss against Leigh on 2nd September 1981 at Hilton Park [6-20].

Roger was proud to represent his country on two occasions: against France at Narbonne on 31st January 1981 [lost 3-23] and against England at Ninian Park, Cardiff, on 8th November 1981, when they were narrowly defeated 15-20 by England. In both games Roger came on from the bench, replacing his team-mate Mel James, in France and Tommy David in Cardiff. He has the Welsh RL Heritage Number #326Coach Kel Coslett was replaced by another club stalwart Billy Benyon and Roger was utilised in place of the injured Mel James at the start of the 1982-83 campaign. When James returned, Roger was to make just one more appearance for the Saints, on 15th September 1982 in the 9-6 win at Barrow in a Lancashire Cup second round tie. Gary Bottell and Graham Liptrot were in the front row with him that evening, with future star forward Andy Platt on the bench. By the end of October, Benyon had signed the experienced Paul Grimes, which effectively signalled the end of Roger’s career at Knowsley Road.

Roger was initially transfer-listed at £40,000 by the club and Cardiff Blue Dragons were interested, but Roger just called it a day after 45 appearances in the red vee and four tries. It is a great pity that his rugby league career was relatively short, but there were some unsettling off-field problems. A job with a tunnelling company saw him involved in a series of accidents. The last saw him receive a number of stitches in a wound below the left eye. “I have always been a 100% man and I have given Saints 100%,” he said shortly before returning to Wales and no-one could ever doubt his commitment on the field.

Roger was always in contact with the Saints’ Player’s Association and visited the new Saints stadium a couple of years ago, renewing acquaintances with some old friends, although he was plagued by ill-health for several years.

Everyone at St Helens RFC send their condolences to Roger’s family at this sad time, especially to wife Barbara; daughters Claire and Nicola and son Garry.

Roger Owen an appreciation by Adrian Lawrenson

This extremely strong Welsh prop forward played some 45 matches for the Saints between October 1980 and September 1982. He was a real crowd pleaser and possessed a very powerful hand off. Roger scored four tries for the Saints against Hull, Widnes, Fulham and Whitehaven.

Saints finished the 1979-80 season on a low and were starting to regroup again when they again raided the Welsh Valleys for Roger Owen a 26 year old prop forward from New Dock Stars, who made his debut against Castleford on 26th October 1980 in a 5-8 defeat at Knowsley Road. The plan was for Roger to prop with Mel James and Graham Liptrot with a back three selected Eric Chisnall, George Nicholls, Peter Gorley and Harry Pinner. Potentially quite a formidable pack of forwards.

However coach Kel Coslett didn’t have much luck with injuries and although season 1980-81 was an improvement given normal luck with injuries, the general opinion was that the team could have achieved more. Roger was barnstorming front-rower in the Steve Pitchford [Leeds] mould and certainly became a big crowd favourite, winning two Welsh caps against France and England in 1981 in the process.

In the following season 1981-82 Saints started strongly and then flattered to deceive. Coslett was replaced by another former player of considerable repute, Billy Benyon, who began the following campaign with Roger, who was playing in place of his injured fellow Welshman Mel James. When James returned, Owen was to make one last appearance in the red vee on 15 September 1982 in the 9-6 win at Barrow in a Lancashire cup tie. By the end of October, Benyon had signed another barnstorming forward called Paul Grimes, which signalled the end of Roger’s career at Knowsley Road. Bearded and with an intimidating on-field demeanour towards his opponents, he was a hard-working forward who would never shun the ‘hard yards’ whilst at the same time rousing the supporters with his aggression and never-say-die attitude.


Season (Official Matches)TriesGoalsDGoalsMatches
1980~81 2 0 0 19
1981~822 0 0 22
1982~83 0 0 0 4
TOTALS:4 0 0 45
Season (Other Matches)TriesGoalsDGoalsMatches


26th Oct 1980 1
10 Castleford L H 5 8 VIEW
21st Dec 1980 2
15 Bradford Northern L A 0 11 VIEW
26th Dec 1980 3
8 Oldham L H 11 10 VIEW
28th Dec 1980 4
8 Barrow L A 8 11 VIEW
1st Jan 1981 5
8 Widnes L A 8 11 VIEW
4th Jan 1981 6
8 Salford L H 29 14 VIEW
11th Jan 1981 7
15 Hull Kingston Rovers L A 12 10 VIEW
25th Jan 1981 8
15 Leeds L A 17 20 VIEW
8th Mar 1981 9
10 Hull Kingston Rovers L H 11 5 VIEW
24th Mar 1981 10
10 Hull L A 15 18 VIEW
29th Mar 1981 11
10 Halifax L A 7 17 VIEW
4th Apr 1981 12
15 Hull Kingston Rovers CCSF N 5 22 VIEW
6th Apr 1981 13
15 Warrington L H 29 9 VIEW
12th Apr 1981 14
15 Halifax L H 31 22 VIEW
17th Apr 1981 15
10 Oldham L A 21 18 VIEW
19th Apr 1981 16
10 Hull L H 26 6 1 VIEW
21st Apr 1981 17
10 Widnes L H 24 9 1 VIEW
29th Apr 1981 18
10 Bradford Northern PT1 A 14 12 VIEW
10th May 1981 19
10 Hull Kingston Rovers PT2 A 17 30 VIEW
9th Aug 1981 --
10 Oldham* Fr Ward Cup A 8 12 1 VIEW
16th Aug 1981 20
10 Blackpool Borough LC1 A 28 0 VIEW
23rd Aug 1981 21
10 Barrow LC2 H 40 17 VIEW
30th Aug 1981 22
10 Fulham L H 35 4 1 VIEW
2nd Sep 1981 23
10 Leigh LCSF A 6 20 VIEW
6th Sep 1981 24
10 Castleford L A 32 17 VIEW
27th Sep 1981 25
15 Wakefield Trinity L H 33 14 VIEW
4th Oct 1981 26
15 Warrington L A 11 13 VIEW
11th Oct 1981 27
10 Bradford Northern L H 20 8 VIEW
18th Oct 1981 28
10 Barrow JP1 H 16 16 VIEW
22nd Oct 1981 29
10 Barrow JP1 (rep) A 0 17 VIEW
25th Oct 1981 30
10 Featherstone Rovers L A 8 8 VIEW
1st Nov 1981 31
10 Wakefield Trinity L A 9 16 VIEW
15th Nov 1981 32
10 Bradford Northern L A 20 8 VIEW
31st Jan 1982 33
10 Hull L A 8 26 VIEW
7th Feb 1982 34
10 Leeds L H 6 15 VIEW
13th Feb 1982 35
10 Wigan CC1 H 12 20 VIEW
21st Feb 1982 36
10 York L A 19 7 VIEW
28th Feb 1982 37
8 Whitehaven L H 41 7 1 VIEW
14th Mar 1982 38
8 Warrington L H 18 10 VIEW
21st Mar 1982 39
8 Fulham L A 17 2 VIEW
18th Apr 1982 40
8 Barrow L H 15 6 VIEW
25th Apr 1982 41
8 Wigan L A 5 23 VIEW
5th Jun 1982 --
10 Welsh XIII* Fr Testimonial L 18 18 VIEW
15th Aug 1982 --
10 Oldham* Fr Ward Cup H 15 15 VIEW
29th Aug 1982 42
8 Hull Kingston Rovers L A 10 31 VIEW
5th Sep 1982 43
8 Widnes LC1 A 14 12 VIEW
12th Sep 1982 44
8 Oldham L H 20 15 VIEW
15th Sep 1982 45
8 Barrow LC2 A 9 6 VIEW
*Unofficial Match. **Non Playing Sub.
WINS : 25 | LOSSES : 19 | DRAWS : 4


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