BEN Holcroft, one half of the centre-wing partnership that was the youngest in the Betfred Championship last season, has re-signed for another season at Oldham Rugby League Club.
He was 19 when he signed for Roughyeds a year ago and he’s still only 20, having played on the wing in 13 of Oldham’s 23 games in cup and league in 2021.
In 11 of those 13 games his centre was his former Wigan Warriors' pal and team mate Max Roberts, with whom he had played outside on the wing for Wigan at scholarship, academy and reserve team levels.
Roberts, elder of the two by 11 weeks, has since signed for Swinton Lions, whose coach Allan Coleman has known him since he was a boy.
Remarkably, and notwithstanding the premature retirement of Cam Leeming and a long-term injury to Ben Heaton, Roberts was the only player on the books to come straight out of academy or age-group rugby at Wigan to make 23 starts out of a possible 23.
To put that into perspective, 13-game Holcroft described the jump from the level at which they had been playing at Wigan to the Betfred Championship as “massive”.
“I enjoyed it though and I like to think I learned a lot from the experience.
“I was happy to sign again for another year and I’m looking forward to continuing my development in Betfred League One under Stu Littler.
“We were all bitterly disappointed to go down, obviously, but it’s good to be an Oldham player and I’m looking forward to the new set-up and to helping Roughyeds to progress and to become stronger in League One.
“I don’t know much about the third division but, from the physical point of view, I’m thinking it might be even tougher than the Championship.”
A year ago, when Holcroft signed his first Oldham contract, he said:
“It will be a big leap coming out of my Wigan comfort zone but I know a few of the lads at Oldham and that will help me to settle in. I’m looking forward to showing what I can do.”
He cut his teeth in rugby league at Ince Rose Bridge, where he was scouted by Wigan and played for several years, working his way through scholarship, academy and reserve-team levels.
“I loved my years at Wigan, but it was time to move on and seek a new challenge and Oldham convinced me it was the club for me.
“I played centre when I first went to Wigan on scholarship, but my coach at that time said he preferred me on the wing and I’ve been on the wing ever since.”
Lots of young players who are courted by Super League clubs as boys are lost to the game if they don’t make it ‘big’ while in their teens or early twenties and Ben is a classic example of those who prove there is a professional pathway outside Super League and the highest level.
Don’t forget the Roughyeds' 2021 Awards Night, to be held on Saturday, October 23 (7pm for 7.30pm) at the Oldham Event Centre, Boundary Park.
Tickets at £15, including potato pie supper, can be bought now via the Roughyeds ticket page.
Last season’s players will be in attendance, together with Brian McDermott and Brendan Sheridan.