This week Bill Carne was delighted to chat to Gareth Owens, who not only enjoys his rugby in the county but has also raised a lot of money for young people with mental health issues from his ‘Get The Boys A Lift’ fund-raiser which he now shares with some friends . . .

At 23 years of age Gareth Owens is not only a useful rugby player who has played previously in New Zealand and is now with Haverfordwest but has also done some amazing work for mental health charities.

His first venture was to hitch-hike around Wales with his 'Get The Boy A Lift' scheme which took place last year where he  raised £3,000 for local charities and this year saw him being joined by three friends on a 'Get The Boys A lift'  venture where their journey could be closely followed on social media.

Indeed, supporters could vote for Gareth, Wilson Curtis, Thomas Doyle and Noah Harvatt regarding who they thought would be the quickest to complete the 650-mile trip which started in Haverfordwest and took them through Cardigan, Aberystwyth, Caernarvon, Anglesey, Wrexham, Newtown, Abergavenny, Cardiff, Swansea, St Clears and finally back to the square in our county town.

"On the first night we camped out but after that we were put up on sofas by family and friends in the area, or by well-wishers who had seen about our fund-raising efforts on Face Book or Twitter.

"Wilson was favourite to come home first but the lead changed hands several times as we hitched from dawn until dusk, before I finally arrived back 30 minutes ahead of him, then Noah another two hours adrift - and with poor old Thomas a whole day behind them!

"We took hand-held video cameras and made a bit of a short film about our trek, assisted by a friend who worked for a production company and helped with interviews and editing.

"We eventually made around £5,000 which will go to 'Papyrus', a charity which helps young people with suicidal tendencies, and local charity 'Mind', which deals with mental health issues."

Not content with their efforts there, Gareth and Co are also raising further funds by selling tee-shirts with the 'Get The Boys A Lift' logo, and with all the profits going to charity.

This novel  venture comes with help from 'Tees R Us' in Haverfordwest and now they are looking for somewhere to sell the tee-shirts on a more permanent basis and it is great to report that they don't take a penny in expenses for themselves!

Outside of his charity fund-raising it is rugby which has always been his interest after setting out as a nine year old nipper and after two seasons at Whitland switched to Narberth under the guidance of Clive James.

"We had a good side and I also played county rugby at centre alongside class players like Will Boyd, Sion Bennett, and Connor Lloyd, winning our age group in the County Finals Day five years out of six.

"At under 16 and 18 levels I played for The Scarlets in the same team as Sion, Daniel Thomas (Bath) and Jordan Williams (Bath), taking on the other regions on the training field alongside Parc Y Scarlets.

"I played my first senior rugby at Narberth at 18 when the first team made it into the championship division in the National League section and with Jonathan Dodd and Sean Gale as coaches I played a dozen times for the first team (when Steve Martin and Ollie Reyland were making names for themselves) and also turned out on a dual contract with Ammanford RFC because I had some friends playing there.

"Then I moved to New Zealand for over two years and played for a team called Auckland Marist Old Boys, which was a good standard, and I played lots of sevens as well."

One of the innovations there was a weight restriction on players in each category, with Gareth playing alongside the rest of both teams knowing they had to weigh under 85Kgs.

"We had to have an identity card with a photo on it and every player had to be weighed before the match. It was strictly adhered to as the scales were opened 30 minutes before the start and anyone over the limit was immediately barred.

"I had a really warm welcome after being put in touch with them by Wilson (Curtis) and in training sessions and match situations they were never afraid to be brutally honest and I think that approach improved my playing ability after an initial shock to the system.

"I played in matches with Akira and Rico Ioane, plus Pita Alatini, and I certainly wouldn't mind making a return to the 'The Land of the Long White Cloud," admitted Gareth.

"I then took a season out but met up with an old friend in Haverfordwest player Matthew 'Squirt' Davies, who invited me down to Pembroke Road - and I enjoyed a couple of games at the end of last season with The Blues.

"I was really looking forward to this season but in an early friendly I damaged my knee and I'm waiting for a scan as soon as possible so I can get going again."

Back on the fund-raising front Gareth certainly hasn't stopped his efforts and perhaps next year could see an even bigger 'Get The Boys A Lift' challenge with even more participants aiming to raise funds.

"It would need even more organisation but it is a fun way of helping so we are going to have a think about the way forward," Gareth told us.

But in the meanwhile there is still the search for suitable premises to pursue their tee-shirt selling, perhaps linked to a coffee shop and other things to encourage people to pop in and be made of the need for more help in helping others with mental health issues.

Talk to him for a short while and it is easy to see how committed he is to the cause and we wish Gareth Owens a speedy return to the rugby pitch - and even more success in his quest  to help others less fortunate than himself!