OLDHAM boss Matt Diskin will be best remembered as a player for his wonderful ten years as hooker in a star-spangled Leeds Rhinos side, but in three years at Bradford Bulls in the twilight of his career he made 86 senior appearances and cut his teeth in coaching.
In January, 2014 he was put in temporary charge of the Bulls, as player-coach, following the sacking of Francis Cummins and his No 2 Lee St Hilaire, but not long afterwards James Lowes was named as the Bulls’ new boss.
Diskin retired as a player later that year but not before he had coached the Bulls youngsters at Academy and under-19s levels.
Now 38, and after three years as head coach at Batley, he will again go head to head with his old adversary John Kear, this time as Oldham boss, when Bulls and Kear come to Bower Fold on Sunday (3pm kick off) in what is sure to be another four-figure crowd.
When they were last here for a league game, in 2017, a wonder try by Kieran Gill won it for Roughyeds.
This time they come seeking their first Championship win of the season after home defeats by London Broncos (14-18) and Featherstone Rovers (22-30), both games played at the Tetley’s Stadium in Dewsbury, which they are sharing with the Rams after leaving Odsal because it was too expensive to play there.
They again have new owners and have almost completely changed their playing staff from last season, with 15 or 16 players going and numerous others replacing them.
Hull KR signed stand-off Rowan Milnes from Bradford at the end of last season but then transferred him back on a season-long loan and his combination with Jordan Lilley will be key to Bradford’s fortunes this year.
Other signings this year include those of Greg Johnson from Salford, Anthony England from Wakefield Trinity, Adam Rooks (Hull KR), Levy Nzoungou (Albi), Dan Waite-Pullen (Leeds Rhinos) and Sam Barlow (free agent).
Sunday will indeed be a special day for Diskin, who has four Grand Final rings and was a mainstay of the golden generation of players at Leeds Rhinos when Leeds and their derby rivals Bradford Bulls were both powerhouses of the game.
His try against the Bulls in the 2004 Grand Final won him the Harry Sunderland award as man of the match.
While at Headingley he was a Grand Final winner in 2004 (v Bulls), 2007 and 2008 and a losing finalist in 2005 (also v Bulls).
He was a Challenge Cup finalist in 2003, 2005 and 2010; a World Club Championship winner in 2005 and 2008 and a finalist in 2009; and a League Leaders’ Shield winner in 2004 and 2009.
He was described on the Leeds website at that time as “tough and near-indestructible, as illustrated when he made an incredible 60 tackles against Melbourne in the 2008 World Club Challenge.”
He made 264 appearances for Leeds before joining their derby rivals for three years and later becoming head coach at Batley Bulldogs where he succeeded Kear, who moved to Wakefield as director of rugby.