Jimmy Cowan sheds his Stag's antlers

HE'S BACK: Former All Blacks and Southland Stags halfback Jimmy Cowan has signed a one-year deal with the Tasman Makos.
HE'S BACK: Former All Blacks and Southland Stags halfback Jimmy Cowan has signed a one-year deal with the Tasman Makos.

Jimmy Cowan feels he still has two or three good years of rugby in him and wants to show everyone in this year's national provincial championship he is not a spent force.

The Stags centurion has made a bold decision to step away from Southland, the province with which he has carved such an impressive career, and sign with the Tasman Makos.

He made his Southland debut as a 18-year-old in 2000 and played 100 games over the next 12 years to become just the 12th player to rack up a ton of games for the province.

Cowan returned home this month after spending two years in Britain and is keen to continue his rugby career in his home country.

"I've looked short-term at the ITM Cup and I'll reassess after that. But for me I play with a lot of personal pride and I've come back to perform. I'm not a washed up 32-year-old, I still believe I've got two or three years left in me," he told The Southland Times yesterday.

"I've got a fair bit to prove coming back from overseas, it's not easy coming back from overseas and playing New Zealand domestic stuff again, it's tough rugby. There will be a lot of prying eyes looking at me so I've got to go out and perform. So I think going from my home union to another union will be good for me, it's a new challenge which excites me and I think it will be good for my rugby."

Stags coach Brad Mooar confirmed yesterday they were interested in fielding Cowan this year but it wasn't to be.

"I certainly had a good couple of catch-ups with Jimmy and no doubt his experience would have been great around the group, in terms of helping to develop those young fellas," Mooar said.

"Ultimately Jimmy has decided to play with the Makos and he has made that call and we'll pat him on the back and wish him luck. We've just got to live within our means and that is the world we live in so this sort of thing will happen."

Mooar said he was happy with what he has in the halfback stocks in Southland.

"We are very comfortable with Scotty [Eade], Tayler [Adams] and Sonny [Rangitoheriri] in the wider group, as well as what young Liam Howley is doing at Southland Boys."

Cowan felt Tasman was a good fit for him and singled out coaches Kieran Keane and Leon McDonald as a reason why he chose the Makos.

"Tasman was the first phone call I got and I was very grateful for KK and Leon to offer me a contract right off the bat. I've been under KK before at the Highlanders and I've played a fair bit of rugby with Leon in the All Blacks, so obviously they knew my makeup and didn't quiz me too much. I just felt obliged to lean towards them after they come to me first."

"I like what KK is about and when I played with Leon you could tell he was going to be a very good coach with how he put across game plans. I'm just looking forward to getting up there and working with them."

Cowan said he hadn't given too much thought to the September 17 showdown against Southland at Rugby Park in Invercargill but he was aware of what he might get.

"I'm sure I'm going to get a bit of abuse from the crowd, there is no doubt about that and I imagine from one to 22 the players will be chasing me around. But after the game we'll have a beer," he said.

"It will hit home when that week arrives, it's certainly going to be tough. I've still got family and all that down here and they are Southland through and through. But with how the game has evolved you see people moving around . . . you just have to accept it and move forward."

The Southland Times