DOUBTS about the future of second-row forward Danny Bridge were cleared up today when the big second-row forward signed a new deal which keeps him at Oldham for a fourth season in a row.
Roughyeds are happy to report that 28-year-old Bridge, who is free to play after a drugs ban, has put pen to paper on a contract covering the forthcoming 2021 season, and will be back training tonight (Fri) with our new-look squad.
It was a contrite and apologetic Bridge who chose the Oldham RLFC website to speak publicly for the first time about the events that led to his two-year ban after testing positive following the Roughyeds' 16-14 Betfred Championship win at Whitehaven in February last year.
The World Anti-Doping Agency later changed its rules relating to recreational drugs, which resulted in Bridge’s ban being reduced to three months.
As he had already served ten months away from the game, he was free to play and train again and there was inevitable speculation about where he would go to pick up the pieces of his rugby league career.
Said Oldham-born Danny:
“I’m very happy to say I’m back at Oldham. It hasn’t been the best 12 months of my life, but I didn’t expect to be playing in 2021 so I’m very grateful for the change of rules and the reduction in my ban.
“I’ll be back training with the squad tonight and I can’t tell you how good that will feel.
“I know what I did was illegal and wrong, but I never intended to cheat or to enhance my performance. There were issues in my life which had got on top of me and I made wrong choices in trying to deal with them.
“I am very grateful to the many people who have helped me through this, especially Chris Hamilton (Oldham RLFC chairman) and the people at Rugby League Cares and Sporting Chance.”
Sporting Chance is a health charity, founded by Tony Adams MBE, the former Arsenal and England football captain, who was inspired by his own recovery from alcoholism to set up an organisation to help others.
“I would like to apologise publicly to all the people who have been affected by this and to tell them how sorry I am.
“I just want to put it all behind me now and get on with the job of earning my place in the Oldham team and helping us to do well in the Championship.
“I’ve been talking to club captain ‘Gaz’ Owen, a great and close pal of mine, and he’s been telling me how well the new-look squad is shaping up in training and how much everybody is looking forward to getting out on the field again.
“He’s told me all about the good new lads who’ve been signed and told me to expect a lot of competition for places in the forwards. I knew that already, though, from the lads who have been re-signed and the new boys who have come in.
“Competition will be fierce and it will be very interesting to see how we go. I can’t wait.”
Chairman Hamilton said:
“Danny is a very talented player, who made a big mistake and paid the price.
“What this has done, though, is to allow him to deal with issues outside the game. He got a lot of support and help and, hopefully, that will put him back on track.
“He now has an opportunity to fully embrace and to take advantage of the second chance he has been given.”
Bridge, whose formative years in rugby league were spent at Warrington and Bradford, later played for Rochdale Hornets and then for an NRL feeder club in Australia before joining Oldham in 2018.
He has scored 18 tries in 41 games for Roughyeds, but most of them were in League 1 and, despite his four Championship games a year ago, before his ban, it will be a new challenge for him in rugby league’s second tier.