Not all journeys to success in rugby league are the same and Dewsbury’s Owen Restall has certainly taken his own path to the top.

Owen Restall

“Just over 18 months ago I was still playing amateur so if I can end this year with promotion to the Championship it will top off a bit of a whirlwind time for me.”


IT HAS been less than two years since the 2021 National Conference League campaign came to a close, but a lot has changed for Owen Restall in that time.

That season ended with the now 27-year-old science teacher and his Underbank Rangers being knocked out of the play-offs at the hands of Hunslet Club Parkside, but now he stands on the brink of sending Dewsbury Rams back into the Championship at the first time of asking.

Throw into the mix some time spent in the international set-up with Wales ahead of last year’s World Cup, and it’s been quite the meteoric rise for the fullback, who has enjoyed a very different journey into the professional ranks to many.

There was no time spent with any Super League academy side, there was even a period where he didn’t play at all. But Restall bided his time in the community game until the perfect opportunity came up for him, and it is an opportunity he has certainly made the most of.

Having played his junior rugby with Newsome Panthers, rugby took a back seat for Restall as he gained his teaching qualifications at Leeds Beckett University. He then returned to his roots and had a season back at the Panthers before joining Underbank, where he later became captain.

He was all set for another season there before a conversation with an old friend led him to Oldham, where his free-scoring antics in the pro game caught the headlines, and the attention of Dewsbury coach Liam Finn, who was quick to snap him up to aid their promotion push.

“Just over 18 months ago I was still playing amateur so if I can end this year with promotion to the Championship it will top off a bit of a whirlwind for me,” Restall, who finished last season as the league’s third top try scorer with 21 in 22 games and leads the way at Dewsbury once again with 14 in as many matches, told Rugby League World.

“I have loved the last couple of years. I was a bit hesitant at first to sign professional terms with my work commitments and a couple of other things but I am delighted with how it has panned out.

“I had decided that summer that I was going to give it a go so I put my name out there to try and speak with a few clubs. I already had a few friends at Oldham, Luke Nelmes specifically as we live in the same area of Huddersfield and have known each other a long time. He put me in touch with the club and it went from there.

“There were other opportunities but I felt like I’d settle in better there. They were a team starting afresh with a lot of new players and I felt had a real chance to play there.

“I didn’t want to go somewhere and not play, which coming from the amateur game could have happened. I knew I’d have to work hard, but I felt I had a shot at playing and that swung it for me.

“I loved it at Oldham and potentially could have stayed there, but Dewsbury came in for me and once I had spoken to Finny my decision was made. I liked what he had to say and who they were hoping to sign to add to who had already come in. It excited me so I decided to give it a shot.

“I knew we’d have a chance of being up there this year and I wanted that challenge.

“I was never in an academy and didn’t play at all from the ages of 18 to around 22 when Luke got me back playing. I was a bit of a late bloomer so needed that time in the NCL to develop as a player.

“The move to Oldham was the right time for me and I would tell other amateur players that if the opportunity was right for them, go for it and make that step up.”

But what is next for Restall? Promotion is at the top of his to-do list, and after a blistering unbeaten start that saw them sit seven points clear at the top of the league with most of the sides below them still having six games left to play, it would take a severe downfall if they were to fail to do that.

Reaching that aim would also put him in the shop window to realise another ambition – the chance to finally represent his family by pulling on the red shirt of Wales.

“I’ve loved it so far this year,” added Restall, who turns 28 in August.

“Things are always a lot easier when you’re winning, but I’m enjoying training, the lads are great and it’s close to home. I’ve settled in really well.

“From day one at training, promotion was always the goal and as a group, we didn’t beat around the bush about that. That’s what we’re all here for and we’ve given ourselves the best possible opportunity to make sure that we can get promoted – hopefully as Champions.

“A lot of the guys in the squad have already played in the Championship, but I haven’t and I know it will be a challenge if I get to do that next year. It will certainly be a step up for us – we saw that when we went to London Broncos in the Challenge Cup and lost.

“If we do get there, we know it’s going to be tough, but I would love the challenge of playing there week in, week out and test myself at that level.

“Hopefully that is something I can look forward to at the end of the season, and if I can back myself and have another strong year in 2024, who knows what might happen next.

“The Wales call-up came from nowhere, and I certainly wasn’t expecting it.

“All my family are Welsh – I am the only one that was born in England – so from speaking to my parents and grandparents about it, it is something I can be immensely proud of.

“The next thing for me now though is to get that first cap. I travelled to France last year ahead of the World Cup but didn’t play. I loved the time in camp though.

“It was another step up and another level of professionalism that I hadn’t experienced before, and for someone who had been an amateur player the year before, it was certainly an eye-opening experience.

“I was grateful for the opportunity and it has given me the taste for something else I would like to achieve in the next couple of years.

“That is the main goal outside of getting promotion with Dewsbury this year.”

First published in Rugby League World magazine, Issue 487 (August 2023)

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