OLDHAM have signed former Rochdale points-machine Paul Crook in the hope that he can provide the pivotal experience and know-how to carry Roughyeds back to the Kingstone Press Championship at the first attempt.
A year ago he left Rochdale after seven seasons there to fulfil a similar role at Whitehaven, who reached the League 1 promotion final only to lose 10-6 at Barrow in a thriller that could have gone either way.
Raiders scored the match-winning try nine minutes from the end to spark big celebrations among a crowd of more than 3,000.
“It was a close-run thing, but Paul is hoping to go one step better at Oldham,” said Roughyeds chairman Chris Hamilton.
“We’ve known him a long time and Scott (head coach Naylor) identified him as a player who could do us a lot of good.
“Paul has kicked us to death several times and he’s the type of player who will fit easily into our structures and the way we do things.
“He’s had a good season at Whitehaven and he undoubtedly has the qualities to do really well for us.”
A midfield general, ace goalkicker and shrewd tactical kicker, he amassed 1,499 points in his seven years at Rochdale to break an all-time club record that had remained intact since 1934.
St Helens born, and still living there, he was in the Saints academy as a teenager before signing for Widnes Vikings, for whom he played a handful of Super League games in 2005.
Brief spells at Doncaster and Swinton followed before he began his long stay at Rochdale where he became club captain, scoring 64 tries, 616 goals and 11 drop goals in 166 appearances in the red, white and blue.
In 2013, Naylor’s first year in charge of Oldham, man-of-the-match Crook landed a last-gasp drop goal from half-way that gave Rochdale a 23-22 win at Whitebank and carried Hornets into the Grand Final.
Oldham subsequently joined them, thanks to a 64-8 win against London Skolars, but on the big day at Leigh Sports Village, Crook was again named man of the match with six goals from six shots in Rochdale’s 32-18 triumph.
“Funny how things turn out,” said Crook (31) after putting pen to paper on his Oldham deal.
“I was grateful to Carl Forster and Whitehaven for giving me an opportunity in Cumbria last season and I’m equally grateful to Scott and Chris for giving me this chance at Oldham.
“I enjoyed my season at Whitehaven, but with a young family at home the travelling got a bit too much.
“It will be a new challenge for me at Oldham, but Scott and Chris have recognised that. The plan is to go all out for promotion and I’m looking forward to that challenge.
“I’ve been in this position before (leading Hornets to promotion in 2013 and 2016) and I’d love to do the same for Oldham and help to get them back to where they should be.”