You may never have met Josh Eastwood, but if you’ve ever watched Huddersfield Giants play, then you’ve definitely heard him, or at least the noise he makes with that ruddy cowbell.
Rugby League terraces are some of the strangest, craziest places you’ll ever encounter in your entire life.
They’re renowned for a lot of things. The deafening cries for a forward pass, the catchy, whacky chants written by someone with far too much time on their hands.
Each one has its own unique traits and characteristics. But of all the fanbases up and down the country, few are less popular than Huddersfield.
And it’s all down to a cowbell.
What was a light-hearted attempt to generate an atmosphere at Huddersfield’s sparsely populated ground has turned into a notorious behemoth of an instrument that has caused public outrage among Rugby League folk. The ear-churning racket it generates has made it one of the most reviled things in Super League.
But that doesn’t bother its owner one bit. Rugby League World tracked down Josh Eastwood, the 18-year-old behind one of the most annoying instruments ever employed at a sporting arena since the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa infested our eardrums with the dreary buzz of the vuvuzela.
But it wasn’t Josh’s idea to bring a cowbell to matches. In fact, the origins behind its introduction are quite fascinating.
If you’re looking for someone to blame, then point the finger at Huddersfield owner, Ken Davy.
The tale goes that Mr Davy was a huge admirer of Leeds’ brass band, another marmite attraction on the Rugby League terraces. He decided he wanted Huddersfield to have their own equivalent. So he put things in place. After much deliberation and craftsmanship, similar to that of the Elven-smiths of Eregion in Lord Of The Rings, the cowbell was born.
However, there was no Smeagol to Huddersfield’s ‘precious’ cowbell. Those who were first handed the responsibility moved on. The cowbell needed a new master.
That’s where Josh came in.
“It got to the point where nobody was wanting to play it basically because it’s a bit of a ballache to be honest.
“Clanging it as hard as you can for 80 minutes isn’t the easiest thing. But nobody else wanted to do it and at the age of 16 I thought it would be fun to play. I’ve looked after it ever since.”
With great power comes great responsibility, and ultimately plenty of negatives. His presence grew, his following increased. But there are some opposed to it.
If you took to social media, you wouldn’t want to touch the thing, such is the hatred towards it.
“One guy said if he saw me with it he’d knock my front row out,” he points out.
Josh insists it’s not as bad as it’s made out.
“Honestly, I get so many compliments.
“To say everyone hates it, I’ve had so many people come up to me and ask for a picture with the cowbell. At every away game we bang it around on the street and we have kids and adults coming over asking if they can have a few whacks on it. I’ve only ever had one incident in person and that was a joke from a Hull fan.
“I get all sorts of grief on social media. It gets boring, I’m not affecting anyone unless I’m clanging it in someone’s ear and I can assure you, I get a headache more than anyone else. But it gets our fans going and that’s clear to see because without that there wouldn’t be much of an atmosphere. We went to two games without it and there were so many people asking about the cowbell and people weren’t joining in.”
The main problem, in Josh’s eyes, are the physical demands required to use it correctly.
“I get splinters sometimes. When you hit it as hard as I do, it’s demanding. One of the drumsticks is held together by see-through tape. My arms ache and ears ring too.”
But love it or hate it though, it’s here to stay.
In fact, you can expect more instruments to follow Huddersfield around in the future.
“One of the lads who goes has invested in a drum to take to games which is insane. I saw him at a game and I’m not talking about a bongo, I’m on about a big drum. The plan is to get anything that makes noise.
“At first it was for a laugh but I feel like it’s my duty now.”
Ultimately it’s working, too. Huddersfield might not have the biggest following, but they have one of the loudest.
“I would rather be a part of the fanbase I’m with now, lose every game and go to the Championship, rather than be put with Leeds or Wigan and go away with hundreds and sit in silence with the occasional boo. The only good laugh are the Warrington fans, the rest look at us like freaks.
“Say there is only 50 of us, I can name pretty much all of them, everyone is close as a fanbase. When you’re all bunched together you get to know everyone. I wouldn’t change it, honestly. If we could get thousands that would be brilliant but we all have a good laugh and make a fair bit of noise. That’s what it’s all about.”
Josh is an honorary member of Rugby League World’s Most Dedicated Fans alumni. Think you’re worthy? Email us your story to firstname.lastname@example.org