Determined hooker Tom Cowan-Dickie is ready to put his best foot forward for the Cornish Pirates this season after admitting he failed to show the necessary application during his first stint as a professional rugby player at the Exeter Chiefs.
Cowan-Dickie, the older brother of England and Exeter star Luke, saw his chances of a Premiership future slip away as he ended up working on building sites, before rekindling his love of the game playing for Redruth and then Plymouth Albion.
A sterling 2016-17 campaign at the Brickfields was enough to persuade Pirates’ joint bosses Alan Paver and Gavin Cattle to hand Cowan-Dickie a full-time contract, and the 26-year-old Newlyn resident admits he is desperate to make the most of the opportunity on his return to the club where he and his younger sibling first learnt their trade.
‘This is it now, it’s my last chance,’ Cowan-Dickie told the Indy. ‘It feels like I’ve been given a second chance and I don’t want to waste it because to come back into a fully professional club has always been my dream over the last couple of years.
‘I used to be a hooker at Chiefs, like Luke, but I was naive and took things for granted. I just went through the motions and never really applied myself as I should have done.
‘I just took rugby as a game rather than the profession it is, and it wasn’t until I left Exeter and did an actual day job that I realised I should have put a lot more into it. I didn’t know what I had until I woke up one morning and realised it was gone.’
Cowan-Dickie added: ‘I did a year doing ground work for one company and then did scaffolding. Scaffolding was a good crack and I enjoyed the guys I worked with, but you’d definitely want to be a professional rugby player over anything else.
‘Redruth helped me get my enthusiasm back and I just enjoyed running around with my mates. Then I went to Plymouth last summer and it was really good to help the club re-establish itself after all the off-field problems they’d been through.
‘With David Venables and Bruce Priday taking over it sounded like a really good opportunity at Plymouth, and if I was going to get back into professional rugby again it seemed the most logical step to take, so it’s all worked out really well.
‘Unfortunately, Hartpury ran away with the league but we set ourselves some goals and hit every target apart from getting promoted. Finishing second was a great effort, though, and I’m sure Plymouth will go on to achieve big things.’
At Pirates, Cowan-Dickie comes under the tutelage of renowned forwards guru Paver and will compete with Tom Channon and Marlen Walker for the No.2 jersey.
He said: ‘We’ve spoken about a rotation system early in the season and we’ll go from there. All I can do is do everything I can for the team and hopefully it will all go well, but my fitness is back and being full-time again has proved beneficial.
‘It’s great working with Paves. As a coach he’s very thorough and he looks at everything over and over again to see where you can improve as a player, what are the best ways to play and how do we do things differently to ensure the best outcome.
‘As a front row player I don’t think you’ll find anybody who’s better qualified to teach you and I think we’ve got a pack that can do pretty well.
‘Bristol will be the clear favourites to win the Championship, but beyond that nobody knows and I think we’ve got a very well balanced squad.
‘Some clubs will be stronger up front while others rely on flashy backs, but we’ve got both and when the ball goes wide we’ve got dangerous backs.’
As for the sibling rivalry, with one Cowan-Dickie striding purposefully as a Premiership title winner knocking on door with England and the other in the foothills of rebuilding his professional career, Tom feels nothing but pride for his brother.
He added: ‘Luke’s worked really hard and deserves everything he gets. It does make you think when you see the little brother you used to beat up and now he’s running around smacking blokes at Twickenham, but I’m very, very proud of him.
‘We speak a lot and play Xbox together a lot, so you have to be inspired by what he’s done and if he starts the season well I’m sure he’ll be pushing for England. The challenge for me now is to make a success of my new start with the Pirates.’
By Neale Harvey