AN empty chair at the Oldham Past Players’ Association dinner on Friday night, November 1 provided a sad reminder of the the shock and sudden death of Hugh Waddell, aged 60.
Most of those attending the dinner in the St Herbert’s RC Parish Hall were stunned to hear of Hughie’s passing earlier in the day.
He was due to attend the dinner, travelling from his home in the Carlisle area, as he had done in previous years, writes ROGER HALSTEAD.
Those present observed a moment’s silence for the former Blackpool, Oldham, Leeds, Sheffield and Great Britain prop before the formal part of the evening got underway.
Later, former Oldham chairman John Chadwick proposed a toast to absent friends — all those with Roughyeds connections who had died during the previous 12 months.
Hugh Waddell’s story was the stuff of a boys’ magazine novel — the young, unknown rugby union player from Burton-on-Trent who went on holiday to Blackpool, walked into Borough Park and asked for a trial; and went on to play for Great Britain against the Aussies in Sydney.
He first came to Oldham’s attention when, as a 24-year-old, he had a storming game in Blackpool’s shock 32-26 win in a Lancashire Cup tie at Watersheddings in 1984.
It was more than two years later before he finally became an Oldham player in January, 1987. He was on his way.
He played in the last 16 games of that season and was in the team that beat mighty Wigan 10-8 in a first round Challenge Cup tie on a never-to-be-forgotten Watersheddings night.
Paddy Kirwan, who was at Friday’s dinner, scored the last-gasp try that rocked Wigan and made the entire Rugby League sit up and take note.
For the record, the Oldham team was Mick Burke; Hussain M’Barki, Des Foy, Gary Bridge, Mike Taylor; David Topliss, Paddy Kirwan; Bruce Clark, Ian Sanderson, Hugh Waddell, Mick Worrall, David Hobbs, Terry Flanagan. Subs: Gary Warnecke, Stuart Raper.
Following the departure of Aussie prop ‘Bruiser’ Clark, Oldham lost their last six games to get relegated to the Second Division for 1987-88.
Waddell played in 36 of that season’s 38 games as Roughyeds won the Second Division title and then the Premiership Trophy by defeating Featherstone Rovers in a thriller at Old Trafford.
Team: Burke; Paul Round, Des Foy, Charlie McAlister, Kevin Meadows; Peter Walsh, Mike Ford; Ian Sherratt, Ian Sanderson, Hugh Waddell, Colin Hawkyard, Mal Graham, Terry Flanagan. Subs: Richard Irving, Gary Warnecke.
In the same year, 1988, Waddell made his Great Britain debut against France in Avignon and was then selected for the Lions’ tour of Australia and New Zealand, along with scrum-half Ford.
Australia won the first Test in Sydney and the second Test in Brisbane.
The series was won by the time the third Test was played at the Sydney Football Stadium when Britain were without seven first-choice players.
Nevertheless, GB were full of pride and passion; Waddell got his big tour chance in the front-row; and the tourists pulled off a shock win, cheered on by a party of Oldham schoolboys, who were in the middle of their own Aussie tour.
I was privileged to be there and to report that Waddell and his fellow prop, Kevin Ward, were instrumental in taking on, and beating, the Aussie forwards up the middle.
It was the first British win in Australia for 14 years and it ended a run of 15 wins in a row for the Kangaroos against the Brits.
For the record, Great Britain lined up like this: Ford (Bradford); Gill (Wigan), Stephenson (Leeds), Loughlin (St Helens), Offiah (Widnes); D Hulme (Widnes), A Gregory (Wigan), Ward (Castleford), P Hulme (Widnes), Waddell (Oldham), Powell (Leeds), M Gregory (Warrington), Hanley (Wigan, capt). Subs: Wright (Widnes), Case (Wigan).
He ultimately left Oldham to sign for Leeds in September, 1988.
The condolences of everyone at Roughyeds are extended to the Waddell family.