Written by Callum Walker
Photo by Mike Hewitt
Adrian Vowles began his career in Australia, debuting for the Gold Coast Seagulls in 1993 where he spent two seasons. Then, after two years with the North Queensland Cowboys, Vowles moved to Castleford ahead of the 1997 season aged 25. Though taking a few months to settle, the ball-handling loose forward soon became one of the Tigers’ most important and most formidable players.
In his five seasons at the club, Vowles made a reputation for himself as a physical and skilful forward, so much so that he was named Man of Steel in 1999 – the first Castleford player to win the award since its creation in 1977. He was named in that year’s Super League Dream Team for his efforts.
“The Assassin”, as he was nicknamed, played a major role in Castleford’s greatest Super League season since the summer game’s creation as the club ended the year 80 minutes from Old Trafford and Wembley, following an incredible 23-16 play-off victory over Leeds. Ironically, Headingley was Vowles’ next destination as the loose forward left Castleford at the end of 2001.
The formidable forward played 17 games, scoring twice for the Rhinos before leaving mid-season to join Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in a player-coaching role at the age of 31. Both he and co-coach Shane McNally did enough to save the West Yorkshire club from relegation.
Though Vowles remained at Wakefield for the 2003 season, he left three games before the end to rejoin his beloved Castleford. He had played 27 games for Wakefield, scoring six tries and converting one try.
The number 13 played in the Tigers’ last three games of 2003 before returning home to Australia. There he spent time at Brisbane Broncos’ feeder club the Toowoomba Clydesdales and then Burleigh Bears, yet the Aussie had himself found a home at Castleford and returned once more when the Tigers found themselves relegated to the second tier in 2004.
The Queensland-born ‘Assassin’ came back to the club almost like the prodigal son, playing three games towards the end of Castleford’s promotion-winning season in 2005, including the Championship Grand Final. Subsequently, Vowles retired from the game aged 34.
Over the course of his three spells spent at Wheldon Road, the loose forward registered 148 appearances, 33 tries, one goal and one drop-goal to give him a points haul of 135 – a remarkable statistic for a number 13. A real hard-man and tough operator, Vowles also made three appearances for Scotland in the 2000 World Cup as well as one State of Origin appearance for Queensland in 1994.
The bald-headed enforcer is not only a Castleford Hall of Fame inductee, but his name is also on a special Arriva Bus, having been named in the Arriva Yorkshire Rugby League Dream Team in 2009. Vowles was adored by fans, particularly on the Wheldon Road terraces where he will forever be remembered, and feared by his Super League rivals for the rough and ready way he played the sport.