Gower eyes unlikely ton
Eels back-rower David Gower is so named because of a match-winning hundred from his namesake, and one of the game's more travelled journeymen has set his sights on a rather remarkable ton of his own.
The story has been doing the rugby league rounds for a few years now. Gower's dad, a proud Englishman, wanted his son to be named after the English Test captain at the time. His mum, an equally patriotic Australian, preferring Neil.
A bet on the 1985 Ashes, secured by 157 not out from the stylish English batsman in the deciding sixth Test, gave the Poms a hard-fought series and two weeks later, David Neil Gower his name.
Now, 28 years on and finally finding his feet at Parramatta via stints with the Tigers, Dragons, Salford Reds in the UK, and then last year Manly, Gower has set the radar on a century of his very own.
"My goal is to play 100 first grade games," Gower tells NRL.com after the Eels' tense 16-10 loss to the Knights.
"I know it's a fair way off, and I'm a little bit older, but I also started a little bit later, so touch wood my body stays a little bit fresher than most and I can kick on into my 30s.
"It might be a bit lofty in some eyes but I'd like to get there and it's worth a crack anyway."
With only 21 NRL games to that famous name coming into 2014, the doubters would be getting some pretty short odds, but such has been Gower's form in all bar two of Parramatta's games this year that the workhorse back-rower sits on the verge of something unprecedented in his NRL career: a contract longer than 12 months.
"I'm just your classic battler mate," Gower laughs when asked about his five separate one-year terms at four different clubs.
"But we're in talks at the moment, so hopefully something will be finalised soon and I'm looking forward to securing my future for a little bit longer... and hopefully having some good years here with Parramatta."
Should Gower be raising the bat a few years from now to one of the more unlikely tons, he freely admits he'll also owe a raise of the glass to the man who got him to the Eels when he was set to accept a lucrative offer from either London or Wakefield, Parramatta coach Brad Arthur.
It's the rookie mentor who Gower credits for his career-best form, on show for the Eels in the form of 35 tackles against the Knights in Round 16, including a bone-rattling try saver on winger Akuile Uate in the 54th minute.
"I think it's the fact the coach has a belief in me and my ability," says Gower.
"I always knew I had the ability to play at this level and Brad told me last year that if he got a first grade coaching role he'd do his best to bring me across to wherever he was, and that was a huge shot of confidence for me.
"It was a bit of leap of faith, but I rate Brad highly as a coach too, and the way he wants to coach his side.
"As soon as he rang me and he said that he had the job, I was quite happy to sacrifice what was quite a lot of money in the end, to come here for an opportunity."