Jimmy Cowan has been named the Highlanders captain for the 2009 Super 14 rugby season.
Logan Savory reports for The Southland Times that Highlanders officials revealed yesterday their surprise choice to lead the team this year with the Southland halfback heading off more experienced captains within the squad, including Stags team-mate Jamie Mackintosh.
Cowan’s selection to replace the departed Craig Newby as skipper caps off what has been a remarkable comeback following his well-publicised fall from grace in July, when he was involved in a spate of alcohol-fuelled incidents.
The 26-year-old had turned himself around to the point where at the end of the most recent All Black campaign he was regarded as the country’s best halfback.
Now the boy from Mataura can add the honour of captaining a team at Super 14 level to his list of achievements.
Cowan agreed he was proud of his rise from the bottom back to the top.
“It’s been through a lot of hard work and grit. That was 2008, though, and now it’s 2009; it’s a new year. I’ve got to start again,” he said.
Highlanders coach Glenn Moore had to weigh up whether giving Cowan the role so soon after the off-field problems was fair on the halfback.
“We gave it a lot of careful consideration but underneath it all what we saw from him, with the way he dealt with those difficult times last year, was a lot of character. That is what we want (from the captain),” Moore said yesterday.
“He showed a lot of courage to bounce back like he did,” he said. “I’ve spent quite a bit of time with him during the Air New Zealand Cup when he was back with Southland and he’s made a major step forward. He’s showed a lot of growth in his leadership.”
Cowan is the first Southlander to lead the Highlanders.
He joins Anton Oliver, Taine Randell, Josh Blackie and Craig Newby in the elite club.
“It is a huge honour and something I’m very proud of,” Cowan told The Southland Times yesterday.
Rugby Southland boss Roger Clark was delighted a Southlander had been given the captaincy role for the first time.
“Its great for the province but also great for Jimmy,” Clark said.
“Jimmy has earned it. He’s come a long way in the last year.”
Mackintosh was named as one of two vice-captains for the 2009 season, with Hawke’s Bay’s Jason Shoemark the other.Tweet