Written by Callum Walker
James Lowes began his career at Hunslet in 1987, debuting at the age of 17. Over the course of six seasons, Lowes – playing at hooker – registered 94 appearances, scoring 22 tries and kicking 19 goals. A move to Leeds at the end of 1992 was the catalyst for Lowes to push on in his career.
Though Lowes was part of Leeds’ Challenge Cup Final side of 1994 and 1995, the Rhinos lost to Wigan in consecutive years. A move to Bradford ahead of the inaugural year of Super League in 1996 was the start of Lowes’ silverware-winning exploits as an individual and with his team. At Leeds, Lowes had played 125 games, scoring 20 tries in the process.
1997 was the year in which he announced himself as one of the greatest hookers of the time, guiding Bradford to Super League success. In doing so, Lowes was awarded the Man of Steel after finishing the year as the Bulls’ top try-scorer and one of the major influences in the Bulls’ title triumph.
At Bradford, Lowes played in four Grand Finals, winning two. Twice Bradford faced St Helens in Grand Finals with Lowes in the team and twice the Bulls lost – in 1999 and 2002. In the build-up to the 2002 Grand Final, Lowes had signed on for the 2003 season after hinting at retirement, a decision which Bulls coach Brian Noble lauded.
However, Bradford and Lowes were not to be denied in 2001 and 2003, beating Wigan on both occasions with the latter being Lowes’ last game before retiring. That 2003 Grand Final ended 25-12 to the Bulls.
He was also present in the Bradford side that beat NRL premiers Newcastle Knights in the 2002 World Club Challenge, earning the man-of-the-match in a 41-26 victory.
Lowes not only won Super League silverware with the Bulls but was at the forefront of Bradford’s Challenge Cup-winning sides of 2000 and 2003 as the Bulls triumphed against Leeds on both occasions. By the end of 2003, the hooker had made 238 appearances, scoring 98 tries and kicking six goals and two drop-goals.
His legacy was acknowledged when he was included in Bradford’s ‘Millennium Masters’, ‘Bull Masters’, and in August 2007 was named in the club’s ‘Team of the Century’. Only six players have been included in all three lists, making Lowes one of the most respected and loved characters to have worn the Bradford shirt.
Upon retiring, he began a coaching career, joining the then-named Salford City Reds as an assistant coach in 2004 and has since coached Warrington and Bradford as well as Leeds towards the back end of 2018.
Lowes has also been an assistant coach for England and has previously dabbled in the coaching side of things in Rugby Union, having been head coach of Yorkshire Carnegie (previously named Leeds Carnegie).
As a player, Lowes was a feisty and physical character always willing to mix it with the big boys. As such, the no.9 was called up to the Great Britain squad in 1997, making five appearances and scoring one try. He also made one appearance for Ireland. Never one to take a backwards step, the 5ft 11, 14 stone hooker was a superb servant to Rugby League and Super League.