How Castleford Tigers legend Adrian Vowles went from tormenting Leeds Rhinos to playing for them

IT is not unheard of for players to have spells with Castleford Tigers, Leeds Rhinos and Wakefield Trinity.

Monday, 25th May 2020, 6:00 am
Castleford Tigers captain Adrian Vowles breaks past Henry Paul of Bradford Bulls. Picture by Mark Bickerdike.

Tony Kemp and Francis Maloney did it and Brett Ferres - who can add Huddersfield Giants and Featherstone Rovers to his cv - was a recent example, but having also played for Queensland and Scotland probably makes Adrian Vowles unique.

The Australian, who will turn 49 on Saturday, is best known for his three stints with Castleford which made him a cult figure at the Jungle.

Vowles made his senior debut in 1993 for Gold Coast Seagulls, where he was player of the year in his debut campaign.

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Leeds Rhinos' 2002 recruits (left to right) Wayne McDonald, Matt Adamson, Willie Poching, Adrian Vowles and Ben Walker. Picture by Mel Hulme.

After a State of Origin appearance in 1994, he switched to new club North Queensland Cowboys the following season.

Vowles holds a unique place in Cowboys’ history, having been sent-off for a high tackle just six minutes into their opening game.

Their first try, in a loss to Sydney Bulldogs, was scored by full-back Damian Gibson who moved to Leeds Rhinos the following year and played for Tigers in 2003-2004.

Released at the end of 1996 - he later said coach Tim Sheens told him he wasn’t big, fast or strong enough and had “limited ability” - Vowles joined Tigers in the second Super League season.

Damian Gibson. Picture by Steve Riding.

Sheens was proved wrong, though Vowles was not an instant success.

The import was a target for fans’ anger as Castleford lost their first 11 games, but Stuart Raper’s appointment as coach - in place of John Joyner - kick-started Vowles’ Super League career.

Appointed captain, the centre, stand-off or loose-forward became an inspirational figure for Tigers, with his durability, toughness in defence, guile and leadership transforming them from also-rans to contenders for honours.

Having avoided relegation in 1997, two years later Castleford reached the semi-finals of both competitions and Vowles became the club’s first Man of Steel.

One of his most memorable moments in Tigers colours was against Rhinos at Headingley in a 1998 Challenge Cup fourth round tie when his high kick in the final seconds was touched down by Andrew Schick to snatch a dramatic win - ruining Graham Murray’s first game as Leeds boss.

In the 1999 play-offs he was a try scorer in another last-gasp win at Headingley, in Murray’s final Leeds match.

Having caused Leeds so many problems, in September, 2001, he signed for them for the following season. Playing at centre, he made his Rhinos debut in a shock Challenge Cup win over new Super League and World Club champions Bradford Bulls at Valley Parade.

Vowles scored two tries in 20 games for Rhinos and on August 1, 2002, was confirmed as player-coach at Wakefield, working alongside Shane McNally.

After a year at Belle Vue he left Wakefield with just three games remaining in the season and signed a short-term contract with Tigers, making two starts and one substitute appearance.

That seemed to have brought his career in England to an end as Vowles returned to Australia to play for Toowoomba and Burleigh Bears, where he also joined the coaching staff and was chief executive.

In 2005 Tigers, having been relegated the previous year and then chasing promotion back into Super League, sent out an SOS and Vowles returned for another brief cameo.

His three games at the end of the season were all as a substitute and he featured in the win over Whitehaven at Widnes which clinched the second tier title and a place back among the elite.

In all, Vowles played 148 times for Tigers, plus 20 with Leeds and 29 for Wakefield. He was capped three times by Scotland during the 2000 World Cup, scoring his only international try in a 20-12 defeat by Samoa.

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