The Cumberland Throw

David Gower – The Clubman Who Demands Selection

In a bygone era, our wonderful code of rugby league was littered with clubmen. For the uninitiated, these were players who, regardless of what grade they were selected in, became club stalwarts giving their all for the team.

Many were one club players, though it wasn’t a defining characteristic. More importantly, they played the game because they loved it, and they prided themselves on being reliable performers who would be ready for a first grade call up, whenever it came. In short, they gave invaluable service to their club.

There were those who had enjoyed a period in the spotlight during their career, but continued on. There were also those who spent the majority of their playing days in the lower grades.

For the Eels, Phil Mann and John Kolc were a couple of tremendous clubmen. Both had careers that peaked with grand final appearances in 1977, and in Kolc’s case an Aussie jersey in that year. Both continued to play into the early 80s with only the occasional first grade appearance. Over on the northern beaches, Sea Eagles and Kangaroos legend Max Krilich played in over 100 reserve grade games during the1970s, stuck behind Fred Jones, before establishing himself as the first choice rake. Not too many future internationals would remain with a club across five years of reserve grade.

Of course, the filthy lucre was a relatively minor consideration in those days.

Today, in the cut throat world of professional football, NRL clubs can no longer “afford” such men. With only 30 places available on the full-time roster, you’ll be unlikely to find footy veterans, or even players in their mid 20s, running around with the same club year after year without the guarantee of first grade football. It’s more likely that places 22 to 30 are taken by very young players on the rise or by “depth” players on short term contracts.

Articulate in media calls.

Yet, at the Eels, David Gower is our club man of the modern era. A clubman who “demands” first grade selection.

His journey should be an inspiration to those who have a passion for making a career in rugby league.

After playing junior football for the Balmain Tigers, and reserve grade for the Magpies, Gower sought an opportunity in the English Super League at a relatively young age. Across the 2006 and 2007 seasons he played 18 games for Salford before their demotion from the ESL saw him return to Australia.

Combining work as an electrician with his footy, Gower would have to wait nearly two years before he made his first grade debut for the Wests Tigers in the final round of the 2009 season. He would not play NRL again until he shifted to St George Illawarra on a second tier contract in 2011. Even then, he could only tally seven appearances across two seasons.

At 27 years of age, Gower had a grand total of 8 NRL games on his resume. How many players would continue to pursue a career in the code at that age?

A shift to the Manly Sea Eagles in 2013 would prove to be pivotal.

Twelve NRL appearances, including a game off the bench in the 2013 decider provided vindication for his perseverance. That season also saw Gower link up with Brad Arthur, who was then working as Geoff Toovey’s assistant coach.

Gowie models Eels training gear at Richie Benaud Oval in 2014.

At the age of 28, Gower would be one of Brad Arthur’s first signings as an NRL head coach, and from 2014, Parramatta became Gowie’s true home.

In the seasons since moving out to PARRAdise, the veteran prop has gone on to achieve the 100 game milestone (currently 111 – including 91 for the Eels). He’s also achieved a City Origin call up.

It hasn’t been an easy road to such numbers for Gower. However, a work ethic and self-belief that’s usually the hallmark of the game’s elite have seen him become the “go to” man every year, though few pundits (or even the coaching staff) included him in the top 17 when each season kicked off.

His mantra is simple and he lives by it.

“Hard work beats talent, when talent refuses to work hard.”

Whenever he’s found himself pulling on the Wenty jersey, he performs with same intensity as an NRL match. When he takes the field in first grade, there’s always the confidence that he’ll deliver.

Living the hard work mantra at training.

Watching Gowie go through his pre-season paces, it’s fair to say that this latter stage of his career sees him in his best ever physical condition. Indeed, last year I heard Eels Head of Athletic Performance, Lachlan Wilmot, jokingly declare that he would report him to the Integrity Unit for looking so good.

And over this pre-season, the articulate veteran played a key leadership role with the young players added to the Eels full-time squad. Given Gower’s credentials, the Eels are on a winner in appointing him to a part-time role in the club’s well-being department. It’s part of his career transition as his playing days wind down.

Speaking to Gower, there’s little doubt about the value he places on education. An NRL and Federal Government ambassador for their Vocational Education and Training (VET) Program, Gower practises what he preaches. Undertaking studies in Coaching, Sports Business and Elite Athlete Well-Being Management, he takes all opportunities to prepare himself for life after football.

And with that comes ambition.

Questioned at a function last year, Gower saw a future for himself in administration.

“I can see a day when I’m calling Brad Arthur in to my office for a chat,” was his almost matter of fact reply to an on-stage interview.

But for now, there’s unfinished business on the football field.

Gowie (no that’s not his afro) on the charge.

With his beloved Eels currently sitting in 6th place, the hard-working forward again finds himself in a key role coming off the interchange bench. And he’s producing the type of performances and statistics that indicate that this might not be his final season.

Consider these numbers.

In a middle defence which has had its share of questions asked, Gower has a tackle efficiency rate of 93.4%. Combine this with a disciplined game which has registered only one penalty conceded this season and an average error rate of 0.2 per game (a total of 2 errors for the season), and you have a forward providing great stability.

But it’s not just defence and discipline which earns Gowie his first grade spot. He has an important role to play in attack.

Coming off the bench, he averages 14.2 possessions per game. From this, he delivers 10.7 runs. The discrepancy between runs and possessions tells you that the talented forward plays a link role within the team – that the ball is shifted through his hands in attacking plays.

Gower’s running metres sit at just under 95 metres per game, or around 9 metres per run. From such runs, he averages 1.8 tackle breaks and 1.2 offloads per match. This places him as the second best forward (behind Paulo at 1.9) for tackle breaks and third best forward for offloads (Paulo 2.5, Ma’u 1.6). Little wonder that commentators have referenced the impact made by the Eels bench in recent weeks.

At the beginning of this season, it seemed a fait accompli that this would be David Gower’s last season. Now, I’m not so sure.

Without doubt the Eels have a group of talented young forwards such as Kaufusi, Utoikamanu, Fainga’a and Stone who could establish themselves as NRL players in the next couple of years. They will benefit from having strong guidance not just from a well-being perspective, but also on the footy field. Gower’s work ethic makes him the ideal mentor to have around, and given his current form, a spot in the Top 30 would be well-warranted.

Like a true clubman, Gower had this to say in a post earlier this year for Player’s Voice:

“I’m 34 in September. I’ll either be playing on for Parramatta – I don’t want to play against them – having a stint in England, or retiring. When my post-playing career does begin, I’m hoping it can be at the Eels. I’ve made my home here. But I’d love to rack up 100 games for the club first – I’m on 85.

I love this club. My wife, Erika, loves it. My kids, Amelia and Keira, love it. I turned my father-in-law from a Manly supporter into an Eels fan. I’ve got strong relationships with Bernie Gurr and Mark O’Neill in the administration. I work very well with Brad Arthur and the coaching staff.”

Moving into 2020, there’ll be a sense that a changing of the guard is taking place. Mainstays of the Eels pack such as Manu Ma’u and Tepai Moeroa have already confirmed that they’ll be moving on. It’s very likely that others will follow.

Yet, I can’t help but feel that our great clubman, David Gower, will again be running out onto BankWest Stadium for the Eels.

His form will probably demand it.

 

Eels forever!

 

Sixties

 

 

 

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Rob
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Rob

He certainly provides value, doesn’t he?! There should be more of him.

Trouser Eel
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Trouser Eel

Great piece and very timely. David’s performances in recent weeks in particular have been exceptional. I’ve yet to hear of anyone that doesn’t think Gowie is an asset.

There’s only one David Gower – our David Gower.

Gem KM
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Gem KM

In Gowie we trust

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

Sixties what a great post. There was a game not that long back where he came up from Wenty and forget who it was against, but, it was a game that was totally opposite to what we are seeing now, in fact it was an abnormal match for him as he was easily controlled by the opposition and had little impact. Like others I pencilled him as retiring end of this year. Since that game and his selection again, its been a total reversal, there was the Gowie of old, I see in him a type of Beau Scott, not… Read more »

Rob
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Rob

Speaking of club men, what is going on with Tim Mannah or is that taboo?

Bear
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Bear

He gives 100%, 100% of the time. Skill , grit and toughness. Great player and role model

Parra Pete
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Parra Pete

Love that tribute Sixties. David Gower is the ‘blue collar’ worker who will NEVER let the team down..One of my favourite players of the past decade…

Clive
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Clive

Nice write up, I agree Gower should be one of the first guys picked every week.

The rev aka Snedden
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The rev aka Snedden

What a great read sixties. What I found Funny was that he converted his father in Law from womanly to the Eels.😂😂 What shocked me was that Manly tiger’s n dragon’s only used him part time. My Only wish was that why can’t the good doctor be 22yrs old so we can sign him long term. I love his passing b4 n thru the line n after the line. Gretes good 2nd faze play. His offloading is 2nd to none. I like our chances against Manly at Brookvale oval. Take away last yrs shocker 54\0 manlys favour. We have the… Read more »

Pou
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Pou

At the back of my mind I knew Gower had done very little in the NRL prior to his season at Manly, but I probably didn’t realise how enormous it was that he was in his late 20s at the time. That he went on to play 100 NRL games is fucking inspirational.

The rev aka Snedden
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The rev aka Snedden

What I don’t get pou is why those clubs didn’t see what Brad saw in David Gower 🤔 by as they say it’s there loss n our gain.

June
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June

Great article Sixties, Gowie is one of my favourite all time Eels. I like players who give 100% every time they play and Gowie is certainly one that does. I can’t remember who said this back in the 80’s but they said talent gets you so far in Rugby League but dedication and determination get you the rest of the way. That epitomises Gower.

Hearndo
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Hearndo

Like a fine wine. So many times i’ve found myself screaming “go on Gower you old man!”. He’s having a great run of form at the moment, hope he resigns 🤞🏼

DDay
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DDay

Great piece Sixties. Gower comes across as such a decent guy and would be a positive influence on team culture. He is articulate in interviews. I enjoy watching his game time, the step before the line, good metres and his offload ask questions and often put the Eels on the front foot. Happy for him to play another season if his body is up for it.

Jim
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Jim

Love what Gowie dose for this club. He is the first player I would name every week. Whenever I see him named in the 17 I feel a lot more comfortable.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Sixties… Like you I am a long time follower of the eels. Thanks for such a fine and deserved tribute to a player who we fans could never accuse of not giving his absolute best… a ‘best’ I might mention as being often understated and perhaps undervalued. Yes I possibly am trapped in the past in failing to appreciate all the realities of today’s professional sport but it doesn’t stop me recognizing the contributions of a man who I can always rely on to be earning whatever financial rewards the game might give him. I wish I could say the… Read more »

conway
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conway

sorry sixties for the keyboard error.. its conway

Gazzamatta
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Gazzamatta

I read and enjoy every TCT article and comment and I must say I’ve not enjoyed any posting more. My opinion of Gowie has very much changed this season. Prior to 2019 my belief was that Gowie would perform for one or two games when elevated before providing an average performance. 2019 has been a revelation. Outstanding is the only word I could use to describe his efforts. Alongside Lane and more recently Brown he is arguably in our top few every week. Maybe Gowie will be our modern day Dennis Fitzgerald? He definitely impresses when offering comment and is… Read more »

Rob
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Rob

I think, not that I have any proof, just a gut feeling, that Mannah must be out of favour for something he either did or didn’t do at the club. I fear that we won’t see him in FG again. I’m sad to admit that. Very sad.

pete
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pete

Great read Sixties, few give as much on and off the field as Gower does. If Parra want to focus on culture, we have a great role model there. The young blokes coming through will be much better off if Gowie is around. I would simply sign him just for the off field benefits.

BDon
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BDon

Great write up sixties. In those tough sets coming off your own line, Gower seems to have a technique that makes ground just when you’re thinking ‘we re going nowhere’, the old, bald guy nails momentum and the next carrier makes ground as well. Like clockwork, but he’d probably say the guy before him set it up. I’ve probably set him up to be smashed first carry on Sunday!
His game is currently a country mile away from retiree status.

Jpe Briffa
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Jpe Briffa

Hi Sixties here goes i am hopeless on these mod cons. Just read your piece on David Gower and it is great write up. I had quite a few conflabs with David in the past and i remember saying to him that i could see him in a job that would see him in charge of something important and i hoped it would be with Parra. David old mate should you read this. You’re very much admired by a lot of people and not just Parra supporters good on you mate

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Gower is GOD…..

Parramatta Tragic
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Parramatta Tragic

Great write up. Gower reminds me of a 1970’s or 1980’s type of player (not because he looks that old….:) in that he plays with great passion. Gutherson, Brown and Ferguson have that also. If you were going to compare him with previous rangy second rowers, I am thinking Denis Fitzgerald or John Muggleton (Muggleton is incredibly underrated). He has that Muggleton toughness and ball playing skill. A few seasons back, Hayne scored a great long range try off a fabulous Gower pass. Hayne later said “Gower is the only one in the team who can do that”. Would like… Read more »

AJAX
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AJAX

I am a HUGE David Gower fan. Even when we get touched up badly, he is the one guy in the team giving it all. I just really love that about him. RESPECT!!!!

Milo
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Milo

With the squad losing some experience (NRL level) in Manu, Tepai and probably more, he would be a good asset. The only way he will not be kept i assume is if he receives a good offer elsewhere; or we recruit someone with similar type experience, which i am unsre about.
Good man and deserves another yr.
Great Kolc and Mann memories.

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

Milo, if I hear correctly, once his playing career is over he has a job with the eels at some level, understand the same thing with Tim.

Milo
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Milo

Just hope he is not working at the ground Col serving those hot dogs; he could be an astute manager etc.

Colin Hussey
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Colin Hussey

Make them cold Milo for when the dogs play against us.

Shelley
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Shelley

I think we all know that really good forwards don’t become consistent until mid 20’s. We could do a lot worse then offer some of our young up and coming forwards Gower to learn from both during games and at training. Young forwards need experienced and hardworking seniors around them. If he wants to go around again I think we should keep him, especially with Manu and Mannah leaving. At worst he will demand excellence and effort in Reserve grade from the younger boys, at best he provides genuine punch from the bench.

Greg Okladnikov
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Greg Okladnikov

great article. top role model for junior players – on getting every bit of ability out of yourself. Would be great if he stayed around the club