OLDHAM’S older supporters will be saddened to learn of the passing of former Watersheddings forward Geoff Fletcher at the age of 74.
A real character, he made 111 appearances for Roughyeds between 1965 and 1969, starring as a ball-playing forward, the likes of which have disappeared from the modern game.
He came to Oldham from Leigh, initially as a creative second-row or loose-forward but soon moving up to prop as he filled-out physically and gained more experience. A natural leader, and as mentally strong as he was talented, he quickly became a firm favourite of the Watersheddings faithful, writes ROGER HALSTEAD.
Local RL historian Mike Turner wrote of him: “Whether it was to a running forward like Bob Irving or to a fast half-back like Tommy Warburton, Geoff could be relied on to deliver the ball right on cue to send his team mates through a gap.”
He played in Oldham’s Lancashire Cup finals of 1966 and 1968 and captained the side against St Helens in the 1968 final at Central Park when he was forced to retire at half-time with a broken arm.
The following year he left to sign for Wigan. In all, he had three spells at Leigh and another at Workington before ending up at Huyton, where he was to stay for many years and where he became the man who kept that club going in its various guises as Huyton, Runcorn Highfield, Highfield and Prescott Panthers.
He was player-coach, coach, groundsman and eventually chairman when he put his boots away for the last time after a career of 559 games in total — and in those days “spelling” was only used in the classroom and props would only leave the field if they were injured, or sent off !
In one memorable match between Huyton and Oldham at Alt Park, all four props got their marching orders and headed for the early bath.
Huyton duo Fletcher and Arthur Daley, both former Oldham players, were shown the red card as well as the Oldham pair, Brian Hughes and Peter Frodsham.
Fletcher’s magnificent contribution to the sport he loved was rewarded in 1981 when he became the first recipient of the prestigious Rugby League Writers’ Association merit award.
Thanks to Mike Latham’s piece on the Leigh Centurions website, we have access to what the great John Woods said of the man he played alongside at Hilton Park.
Said John: “What Geoff Fletcher did for rugby league was unbelievable. If anyone deserved an MBE for services to the game it was Geoff.
“He was head cook and bottle washer at Huyton and his efforts at Alt Park just to keep the club going against the odds were simply amazing.”
A St Helens man, he owned and worked the family pig farm situated at the back of Knowsley Road , but he was better known in Oldham as leader of the pack, a ball handler with sublime skills and a prop who could be as fierce as they come when scrums were a contested battleground and all hell would often break out in the front-row.
Thanks for the memory ‘Fleckie’. They were good days.