THE family has informed us of the sudden passing of Dave Nicholson in the Isle of Man where he had lived for many years. His death at a relatively early age was a massive shock to all who knew him.
Fans will remember Dave as a hard-working second-row forward in two of Oldham’s most successful seasons for many years.
He made 25 appearances in 1981-2, when Frank Myler’s side won the Second Division championship and promotion, plus another ten in 1982-3 when Roughyeds finished eighth in the First Division – their best season since 1960-61.
The deepest condolences of everyone at Oldham RLFC are sent to the family of Dave, who played originally for Blackbrook ARLFC and toured Australia, New Zealand and PNG with the pioneering BARLA open-age international squad before turning pro for Swinton Lions in 1979.
He impressed Swinton coach Myler in his two seasons with the Lions, so much so that when Myler took charge at Watersheddings ahead of the 1981-2 season and wanted to tighten the defence, he went back to his former club and signed Nicholson and utility back Alan Taylor in a joint deal worth £20,000.
Both made their debuts in the first game of that season; Taylor on the bench with Bob Mordell and Nicholson in the second-row with Gordon Pollard.
Salford won a first-round Lancashire Cup tie 17-7 at Watersheddings and Oldham lined up like this: Murphy; Ward, Hunter, Parrish, Caffery; Ashton, Kirwan; Alexander, O’Mahoney, Harris, Pollard, Nicholson, Flanagan. Subs: Taylor, Mordell.
It was the start of a brilliant season in which Dave Nicholson played 25 times as Oldham won 30 of their 32 league games to finish top of Division Two, to carry off the Slalom Lager Rose Bowl, to pick up £6,000 in prize money and to lift their first trophy since 1964.
They also reached their first cup semi-final in 17 years, beating Doncaster, Huddersfield and Leeds, all at home, to take on Hull at Headingley, losing 22-6 in the last four of the John Player Trophy.
The team that day: Murphy; O’Neil, Caffery, Parrish, McEwen; Taylor, Kirwan; Alexander, McCurrie, Nicholson, Mordell, Goodway, Flanagan. Subs: Ward, Platt.
Terry Flanagan was already established at loose-forward, but with lots of talented young forwards on the fringe of breaking through, like Mick Worrall, Andy Goodway, Alan Platt, Les Cook and Gareth Owen (son of Leigh’s legendary Stan Owen), Nicholson had been brought in to provide experience and steel and to do a lot of the graft.
The fact that Roughyeds won promotion that year showed that Myler knew what he was doing and that Dave N not only justified the faith Frank had in him, but did an excellent grafter’s job in helping to get Roughyeds into the top flight where the boss wanted to be in order to blood the classy cubs who were waiting in the wings.
In preparation for the First Division, he also brought in hooker Alan McCurrie from Wakefield for £35,000 and prop Brian Hogan from Widnes for £18,000.
Both played key roles in the top flight in 1982-3 when the huge investment in the youth policy (the colts) began to reap rich dividends. By this time, Nicholson was restricted to ten appearances, but he still contributed significantly to another big campaign in which Myler’s men picked up 15 wins and two draws in a 30-game First Division programme.
They finished eighth – their highest place for years – and ended the campaign on a real high by going to Championship favourites Hull in the first round of the play-off and giving the Airlie Birds a huge scare before going down 24-21.
The Myler years will be long remembered . . . as will the part played by Dave Nicholson in Frank’s first two seasons.
Rest in peace Dave, and thanks for the memories.