HAVING returned from a two-year stint in Australia with Queensland Cup side Redcliffe Dolphins, Oldham-born second-row man Danny Bridge has signed for Roughyeds in a move described by head coach Scott Naylor as a “brilliant” coup for the League 1 club.
Bradford Bulls and Rochdale Hornets, for whom Sholver-born Bridge scored 15 tries in 21 League 1 games in 2015, were also thought to have been interested in the 24-year-old Irish international.
He enjoyed a successful first season in Queensland in 2016, but then returned to Rochdale on loan for a short spell at the start of 2017 while waiting for a visa to come through to allow him to go back to Redcliffe.
He played in seven of Rochdale’s first nine Championship games, scoring a try in a 22-14 win at Bradford and another in a 10-9 win at Featherstone.
In April this year, Rochdale announced that Bridge was returning to his parent club in Australia with coach Alan Kilshaw expressing the hope that “it won’t be the last we’ve seen of him in a Hornets jersey.”
Said Oldham’s Naylor: “When we heard Danny was back in the area and was looking for a club we moved quickly to pull off a brilliant signing.
“He will make us a lot stronger in the forwards and enable us to have options for every game. I’m looking forward to his start of pre-season training with us tonight (Tues).
“We saw how good he was when he played for Rochdale in 2015. Then he got fixed up in Australia and you don’t get taken on by a club like Redcliffe unless you can play a bit.
“He’s of the right age and he knows the game inside out and back again. The squad is coming together nicely, especially in the forwards. In that department I would say we are as strong as we’ve ever been.
“We lost a few backs at the end of 2017, but we’ve recruited well and we’re starting to look at a very useful squad. It will have the potential to be even better when we get our dual-reg arrangements finalised and I find it all very exciting.”
Nine years the junior of his brother Chris, who played centre for Bradford and Warrington, Danny started at Royton Tigers and later moved to Waterhead, still at primary school, when Tigers closed down.
He did enough in his formative years at Peach Road to be taken on by Wigan Warriors Academy where he had two and a half years before signing for Warrington Wolves where he linked up with elder brother Chris, a goalkicking centre of considerable repute who had been at Bradford and who went on to score 839 Super League points for the Wolves between 2005 and 2014.
In the last of his two and a half years at Warrington, where he made two Super League appearances as a 19 year old, Danny went out on loan to Bradford, representing the Bulls eight times at the elite level.
Next stop was Rochdale in 2015, then Redcliffe Dolphins and now “home’ to Oldham.
“I loved playing for the Dolphins with the sun on my back and I wanted to stay in Queensland to be honest, but visa problems made that impossible. I arrived back in Oldham last month and initially I was planning to have a bit of time off and to start looking for another club after Christmas.
“I quickly found out though that I was missing the game a lot. Then I bumped into ‘Gaz’ Owen, a mate from years ago at Waterhead. He put me in touch with Oldham and it all moved forward from there.
“I’ve always enjoyed playing against Roughyeds, my home-town team, but I know I’ll enjoy it even more playing for them. I know it’s been said many times before but there is something special about playing for your town team. Also, I know ‘Gaz’ and a few of the other lads there and I don’t have to travel either, which is a b onus.
“After playing for two years in Queensland, I’ve got to get used to training again at the height of an Oldham winter. I can’t honestly say I’m looking forward to that — who would — but I’m certainly looking forward to the start of the season and to playing for my home town.”
His signing takes to 21 the number of players contracted for 2018, nearly half of whom are new to the club. He is the fourth Oldhamer on the roster, alongside Owen, Phil Joy and Steven Nield.