DESCRIBED by coach Matt Diskin as a “cornerstone of the club”, long-serving Phil Joy has signed a new two-year deal which will keep him at Oldham until the end of the 2022 season and potentially qualify him for a ten-year testimonial.
With 160 first-team appearances behind him in eight full seasons at senior level, home-town boy Joy could easily have been past 200 had it not been for a long lay-off with a seriously-damaged shoulder in 2017 and then this year’s wipe out after the first six games of the season because of COVID-19.
“He’s a Roughyeds stalwart, isn’t he. He’s pretty close to a testimonial and he deserves it. He’s a cornerstone of the club and in my short time in charge in the early part of this year I would say he was our stand-out forward in terms of metres made and strength in contact.
“We’ve made no secret of our plans to go for a big, strong, robust pack in 2021 and Phil will be a massive part of that. He’s a big guy and I’m looking to him to have a bIg season.”
Forwards don’t come much bigger than the former Waterhead prop, who stands 6ft 3″ and weighs in at 111 kgs.
He joined Roughyeds as a fresh-faced, academically tuned-in 19-year-old, who was studying at Leeds University and whose immediate sporting ambition was to do enough in Oldham’s reserve team, first under John Hough and then Paul Ashton, to earn himself a spot in his home-town club’s senior side.
Alongside him in that trophy-winning reserve team were the likes of Steven Nield, Danny Langtree, Michael Ward and Kenny Hughes, all of whom went on to have impressive careers in the Roughyeds jersey. ‘Langers’ is back after a short spell with Hull FC but, of the five, only Joy is still here and with an unbroken spell of service since the day he first walked into the club more than a decade ago.
“If I’m fortunate to earn a testimonial I think it’s fair to say it will be a big achievement in this day and age,” said Phil. “Not many players get testimonials these days. I’ve never wanted to play for anybody else and to do it with my home-town club will make it extra special for me.
“I’m made-up about the two-year deal as well and I’m looking forward to enjoying two good years in the Championship. I’ll be 31 by then. By missing a full year when I did my shoulder and then losing out on the best part of a full season this year I’ve a fair bit of lost time to make up and I’m looking for two big years in 2021 and 2022.
“As far as COVId-19 and the pandemic is concerned, I’ve got to be honest and say I’ve enjoyed the break. I don’t think I’ve ever got back to full fitness and full strength since my shoulder operation, but I’ve been able to use these few months with no rugby to rectify that with a lot of solo hard training and a lot of specialist work with Adam Neal.
“Adam and I go back a long way as team mates. He’s a close friend of mine and he’s also a personal trainer professionally, so I’ve been spending a lot of time with him. I feel a lot better for it too and I’m looking forward to this weekend when he’ll be testing me and telling me how much progress I’ve made.
“We struggled a bit in the Championship matches we had early this year, but we were hit by injuries and we seemed to be down on numbers. Moreover, we seem to be building a good squad that will be bigger and stronger.
“These are exciting times — and I’m really looking forward to getting out there again.”
He’s looking forward eagerly to a lot of big matches, but none more so than the match in six weeks time when he and his fiancee Laura get married. By their side will be their 17-month-old son Harrison, described by dad as “a little monster who always wants to push the boundaries.”
“Social distancing won’t make arrangements for our big day any easier, but we are going ahead with it and hoping that, by then, some of the restrictions might have eased a bit.
“Going back to Roughyeds over the last decade or so there have been a few highlights and one or two lowlights. I’ll never forget the Grand Final we won in the reserves and the two first-team promotions in 2015 and 2019. But I’ve got to go to the Challenge Cup win at Hull KR a few years back as the best of the lot. What a game ! And what a belting time we had afterwards !”
He got his first senior chance near the end of the 2012 season at Gateshead on September 2 — two days before his 21st birthday. Martin Roden was caretaker coach following the departure of Kiwi boss Tony Benson and Roden travelled to the North-East with this team:
Greenwood; Onyango, Ward, McCully, Brocklehurst; Neil Roden, Dallimore; Boults, Clough, Clarke, Smith, Cunningham, Thompson. Subs: Noone, Whitmore, Joy, Gilchrist.
Joy kept his place for the next game, a 34-29 defeat in an end-of-season Elimination Play-off at Workington. He started in the second-row alongside Paul Smith with another emerging young star, Langtree, on the bench for the second time.
By the start of the following season Scott Naylor was in charge; players like Joy, Langtree and Ward started to make names for themselves . . . and the rest is history.
Losing Grand Finals followed in 2013 and 2014, but promotion was achieved at the third attempt in 2015. Championship status was retained in 2016 but very early in the 2017 campaign Joy was to badly damage a shoulder, the first of several major injury setbacks that year as the club returned to League One.
Hurt against London Broncos in the third game of the season, he played only once more that year and with that one exception he was out of action for one day short of a full year.
His overall statistics with Roughyeds, his only pro club, are hugely impressive: 160 games (all starts bar nine), 27 tries, 108 points.