EIGHTEEN years ago, way back when Mike Ford was Oldham’s coach, a wide-eyed 14-year-old boy from Huddersfield trained with Roughyeds, hoping to follow in the footsteps of his uncle and become an Oldham player.
It didn’t happen. Neither did it happen years later, by which time Richie Hawkyard had made a name for himself at Swinton Lions, when Roughyeds actively pursued him and wanted to sign him.
Now it HAS happened. Hawkyard (32), formerly of Bradford Bulls, Swinton and Keighley Cougars, has finally arrived at the Vestacare Stadium, having left Keighley and chosen to sign for Oldham ahead of two or three rivals in Yorkshire.
The tough-guy full-back is a nephew of Colin Hawkyard, an all-action second-row man and fans’ favourite, who played 189 games for Oldham in a ten-year Watersheddings career spanning the 1970s and 80s.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for Oldham, ever since my dad took me over to train with them when I was a kid,” said Richie.
“I was far too young to play in an under-21 side that was coached by Shaun Gartland .
“As I got older my career took a different route, but my uncle Col never missed an opportunity to tell me and my brother how well Oldham had looked after him and what a good club it was.
“I’ve been around this game long enough not to need an agent because I know a lot of coaches and chairmen and I can sort myself out.
“Keighley wanted me to stay with them, but there was a lot of uncertainty about the club’s financial future. They promised me a testimonial for all my years in the game but I decided it was time to move on.
“A few clubs spoke to me, but Oldham suited me best and I thought it was time to finally become a second Hawkyard at the club.”
Oldham coach Scott Naylor said:
“I’ve always admired Richie and I’ve tried to sign him a couple of times before. I like the way he plays.
“He will definitely improve us as a team and as a back division. He is vastly experienced.
“I’ve always seen him as a full-back but I’ve no doubt he can play other positions too. He’ll give us options, but his main position is full-back.”
Hawkyard coached amateur side Slaithwaite for several seasons while playing at Swinton and it was there that he coached Luke Nelmes, now a team mate at the Vestacare.
He spent three years as a youngster in the Bradford Bulls academy side and played three Super League games in 2007 before moving to Swinton.
In nine seasons with the Lions he scored 44 tries in 159 games before moving to Keighley for the start of the 2016 season.
With 15 tries, he was the Cougars top try scorer in his first season.
His second season, 2017, was marred by a horrific facial injury but he still scored seven tries in 17 games despite surgery to correct a broken jaw, broken cheekbone and smashed-up eye socket.
He bounced back in 2018 to miss only a few games and to earn the respect of his peers, coaching staff and fans to the extent that he walked off with the club’s Man of Steel award, players’ player-of-the-year award and supporters’ player-of-the-year award.
A council plasterer, he said:
“I know I’m getting on a bit, but I’ve always looked after myself and I still feel very comfortable in training and when playing. That won’t be an issue.
“If I was going to retire I would have done it after the injury, but it’s a season and a half since I did it.
“I’ve played a lot of rugby since and I plan to play a lot more.”