BALL-PLAYING centre Aneurin Owen continues to cause panic from the Dragons’ midfield after being inspired by the Smiths – legendary All Black Conrad and Rodney Parade favourite Ashley.

Owen enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2020/21 that ended with him being called up to the Wales squad courtesy of being a firm fixture in the Dragons’ midfield.

The 21-year-old from Newport has remained in the XV this season and hopes that his ability on the ball will help Dean Ryan’s men find their form after a tough start.

As a young player at Newport High School Old Boys it was an understated 94-times capped New Zealand star, a double World Cup winner, that stood out as an idol.

“Growing up watching Conrad Smith, the skillset he had, I’ve tried to copy and bring that to my game,” said Owen.

“I feel like that’s something I’ve got a little bit of a point of difference with, and he’s someone I’ve tried to emulate in terms of the way I want to play the game, definitely.

South Wales Argus: TALENTED: Aneurin Owen on the run for the DragonsTALENTED: Aneurin Owen on the run for the Dragons

“Up until I was 17, I used to play outside-half, so I’ve tried to transfer those skills to the centre. I’ve tried to offer that sort of skill set one out.

“I want to be another pair of eyes, bring that skill set, bring the ball to the line, and put the ball into space. I feel it’s a real point of difference for me, but there’s a lot of fundamentals I also need to work on and get better at.

“I’m trying to make myself an all-round player, but my point of difference is my ball playing ability.”

The Dragons may have had a tough start to the campaign but pulling on the jersey in his home city is just as special for Owen.

He is following in the footsteps of another centre who started out as a fly-half and played for NHSOB before making 161 appearances for the Dragons, the most by someone in midfield.

South Wales Argus: ICON: Ashley Smith is a Dragons greatICON: Ashley Smith is a Dragons great

“From the age of nine to 17 I was a season ticket holder with the Dragons,” said Owen. “I used to go everywhere with my dad, brother, and mates to watch them play. Former Dragons centre Ashley Smith was my favourite player.

“When I was 18, I started training with the Dragons which was a dream come true, but also pretty daunting.

“You go from playing with boys your age to training with fully grown men who are professionals.

“The first session is always pretty tough, and you are blowing loads, but you get used to it. I was nervous because there’s a lot of boys I hadn’t met before. I was a little bit cagey, nervous, and shy but after a few sessions I felt part of the team.”

Owen was invited to train with Wales in the summer, then was called up officially because of injuries. He remains uncapped but is on Wayne Pivac’s radar.

“I feel as if I’m heading in the right direction, and I’ve always been really keen to keep improving as a player, and keep learning as much as possible,” he said.

“At the moment, the Dragons is definitely the place where I feel as if I’m doing that. As an individual I’m getting better all the time.

“It was a great experience to train with Wales. It was a real positive experience where I got to learn from the best players, and the best coaches so I could see how I would cope in that environment.”