Uncertainty and heartbreak might seem like part and parcel of the lockdown period for some, but with his wife one of those currently working on the NHS front line, Phil Dowson is determined to focus on the positive stories born out of the crisis.
The 38-year-old, who played almost 200 times in Black, Green and Gold in six seasons with the Club, has stepped away from marshalling Northampton Saints’ forwards on a daily basis and into ‘Daddy Day Care’ mode instead.
During the lockdown, Dowson has stayed at home to look after his family while wife, Dani, has continued to work on the intensive care unit at Kettering General Hospital.
And the former back rower insists hearing some of the success stories coming out of the NHS first-hand has given him more of a glass-half-full approach.
“My wife has obviously been front and centre of what’s been going on. It’s been interesting to hear how they’ve been dealing with it all,” he said.
“Around Easter was crunch time when she was really busy and going in most days, but it’s settled down now and as the number of infections has slowed, they have been able to get into more of a routine.
“It’s been really busy for them; there’s obviously a lot of tragic stories at the moment but it’s important to know there’s also some really great news about getting people off ventilators and back home.”Phil Dowson
“The hospital have put some videos up of people going home and getting a great reception which have been extraordinary, so there are some positive news stories to come out of all this as well.
“I’m still very much on ‘Daddy Day Care’ duty. I’m left a list of jobs every day by my wife while she goes off to work; so I’m now a master of the hoovering, have improved my cooking and I’m becoming a house husband effectively!”
Dowson himself has this week become one of the town’s positive news stories, as he began auctioning off several playing shirts from his collection in aid of Northampton Saints Foundation.
Many of the UK’s charities have seen their fundraising dry up as they are currently unable to host any events, and while Saints Foundation is no different, their programmes continue to run and benefit some of the most vulnerable young people in Northampton.
In 2009/10, Phil Dowson made history by lifting our first ever major domestic trophy 🏆— Northampton Saints 😇 (@SaintsRugby) May 11, 2020
Now, Dows is auctioning off three of his own jerseys from that famous season, with proceeds supporting @SaintsFdation.
Want one? DM us your bid by 5pm on Fri 22 May. pic.twitter.com/29hv4NUdRo
Dowson said: “One of the jobs I got given was to clear out the garage, and I have kit bags full of shirts in there from my playing days.
“Saints are doing their ‘King of the Kits’ campaign on social media and I noticed that I still had three of the shirts involved in that, so I just thought that it was a good chance to raise some money for charity and for anyone who does like collecting memorabilia to get their hands on some throwback Northampton gear.
“I’ve got plenty of them and Saints Foundation is a really worthwhile cause – plus it helps clear out my garage, so my wife is happy too.
“I think my favourite Saints shirts were the Cup kit with the gold shoulder (2009/10), and the European one from when we got to the final (2010/11). Both kits have great memories associated with them because we only wore them on those Cup runs; you’ll always have fondness for shirts you were successful in.
“I’ve got more than just the three that have already gone up for bidding, so if anyone wants anything in particular please just send me a message on Twitter.”
Saints Director of Rugby Chris Boyd has insisted in recent weeks that this period away from rugby should be used as an opportunity for upskilling, self-improvement and personal advancement.
And after almost two months at home now, Dowson is adamant Northampton’s coaches have not been spinning their wheels.
“The group have kept in really close contact throughout all of this and Chris has been really good at giving us all the information that he is getting,” he added.
“We’ve also been trying to upskill as well and try to learn new things, so we’ve had Zoom calls with the Melbourne Rebels, and Chris has given us reading materials as well.”Phil Dowson
“James Craig (Developing Player Programme manager) is really into the sports psychology stuff, so he’s been sending articles around and we’ve been discussing them too.
“I’ve been messaging players a fair amount, making sure they are getting on alright at home, and feel connected with each other – so we’ve pretty much been doing as much as you can do, without actually doing anything so to speak.
“As and when we get the protocols through for returning to training and playing, we want to be ready to go and to hit the ground running.”