HE HAS spent most of his career outside the spotlight, but lower division stalwart Austin Buchanan will take centre stage on Sunday when he lines up for Dewsbury Rams against Salford Red Devils in his own testimonial match.
Buchanan described the Dewsbury club as his “second family” and sees attracting a Super League team to Tetley’s Stadium as a way of rewarding them for their support.
Now 30, Buchanan began playing rugby as a teenager at Milford Marlins and had a year in Castleford’s academy before joining hometown club Leeds Rhinos. His time there included a spell on loan at London Broncos and he played for York City Knights and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in advance of joining Dewsbury in 2007.
Buchanan – brother of Leeds’ veteran forward Jamie Jones-Buchanan – has 10 Super League appearances to his name, six of those for Wildcats, but feels his career didn’t really get going until he arrived at Tetley’s Stadium.
“I didn’t start playing until I was 14 or 15,” he recalled. “When I came to Leeds all my best friends played there and I didn’t want to do anything different, but when I was at Leeds I had a few problems at home and so on and it didn’t work out. I went to York and had two good years there.
“I was player of the year and got noticed by a couple of Super League clubs. I ended up going to Wakefield and I had high hopes.
“I was hoping to get into England Knights and to be pushing for a place week-in and week-out on the wing at Wakefield, but I didn’t really settle anywhere until I got to Dewsbury and they took me under their wing. People like Dean Lawford and Francis Maloney were there and I learned a lot from them. The supporters took to me straight away and I did the same. Now they are like a second family, they all help me out and they’ve been there through the hard times and the good times.
“There have been some hard times, but the club have always tried to do their best to help me and I’ve done the same.”
This year is huge for Rams, who will be competing against the likes of former Super League clubs London Broncos and Bradford Bulls in the Kingstone Press Championship.
After two seasons of steady progress under coach Glenn Morrison, confidence is high in Rams’ camp, but Buchanan insisted his main priority is contributing towards the team effort.
“All I want to do is play rugby,” he said, after being restricted to just 12 appearances last term. “I have struggled to get into the side a bit since Glenn Morrison has been at Dewsbury – I’ve had a year and a half of being injured and I’ve worked hard to get games under my belt.
“I’ve needed chance to get games under my belt and get playing rugby league. I lost my way a bit and confidence was low.
“With the team doing so well it was hard to get back into the team, so I’ve been working hard on having a good pre-season and learning how Glenn Morrison likes to play the game.
“I’ve done a bit of boxing, I achieved that and got a couple of wins under my belt and now I am just concentrating on playing rugby.
“I have had offers to go elsewhere, but my heart lies with Dewsbury. I’m really proud to have this testimonial and I want to get back to being in the team, scoring tries, winning games and celebrating with the lads afterwards.”
Buchanan, who missed the start of last term due to suspension, signed a new one-year contract at the end of 2014 before being awarded his testimonial for services to Rams and the sport.
He is hopeful Salford will send a strong team for their opening pre-season game – possibly including former Leeds Grand Final winner Ben Jones-Bishop.
“We’re pushing (chief executive) Martin Vickers and Marwan (Koukash, club owner) to send a good team over,” Buchanan said.
“One of the people who’s helping me is Alex Simmons, of the Rugby AM television and radio show. He’s good friends with Marwan and he’s had a word.
“I am sure they will have a couple of young lads in, but it’s their first game so they will be itching to get on to the pitch.
“Hopefully they’ll send a few fans as well and we’ll get good numbers there.”
Explaining why he chose Salford as the opposition for his big day, Buchanan added: “We had a look at a few teams, but Salford stood out.
“We had Wakefield and Castleford in mind, but it’s not just about making money, it’s about giving something back to the club and bringing some big names over.
“Hopefully people like Rangi Chase, Adrian Morley and Gareth Hock will be playing and I am sure the fans will appreciate that.
“The chance to see some world-class rugby players in action.
“And I love testing myself against the best in the game. It’s about everybody enjoying it and celebrating my time at Dewsbury.
“It is a three-month testimonial and I am happy with that. I would never have thought I would have that five years ago.”
Admission to Sunday’s game at Tetley’s Stadium (3pm) is £13 for adults, £10 concessions and £5 for under-16s.