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Oldham area RL influence continues to shine brightly

ELSEWHERE on this website, you can read all about various tweaks to rules etc which will come into play next season, but did you notice that two of the 11 men who were at the coal face of these changes and actually recommended them to the RFL Board for final approval were ‘two of our own’ in Oldham-born Robert Hicks and Mike Ford ?

It begs the question: Does anything happen in the upper echelons of the Rugby Football League without an Oldham connection, this going all the way back to 1895, the famous breakaway and the appointment of Joseph Platt, an official of Oldham Football Club, as it was then called, as first secretary of the Northern Union ?

Of course it does.

Nevertheless, I’m sure the reader gets my drift. Oldham influence has always been paramount in what happens at HQ and it’s good to know that the “made in Oldham’ trademark is as relevant today as it always was in this great game of ours when such as George Hutchins was strutting his stuff along the sport’s corridors of power and, more recently, Phil Larder was coach of a Great Britain side that reached a World Cup Final, writes ROGER HALSTEAD.

Did you know, for instance, that of the 40 players who have made full Test appearances from the Oldham club, seven were Oldham born, namely Herman Hilton, Terry O’Grady, George Tyson, Terry Flanagan, Billy Longworth, Des Foy and Ken Jackson ?

We’ve had 28 GB tourists, including five of the above plus Mike Ford, who was brought up in Grasscroft, went to Saddleworth School, and is now living in Diggle after many years away, rising to the very top in Rugby Union coaching. More importantly, he is back at the Oldham club, now as managing director, which he served with distinction as player and player-coach.

He was at the Laws Committee in question as the Betfred League One rep, while Robert Hicks, a qualified lawyer, was there as a top RFL official in his role as Chief Regulatory Officer. The son of former Oldham player Ray Hicks and the grandson of ex-Oldham chairman Ken Fisher, Robert was once Head Boy at Hulme Grammar School. He has worked for the RFL for years – as part-time referee, full time referee, lawyer and now a key figure in our sport’s leadership.

He and his family now live in Yorkshire but, just like Ford, he is a typical example of the old saying: “You can take the lad out of Oldham, but you can’t take Oldham out of the lad.”

The same could be said of Andy Wilson, head of communications at the RFL and a man who has been a Roughyeds fan all his life, as is his father Ian, secretary of our Supporters’ Trust, and his grandfather, Ian’s Dad, who started the Wilson dynasty’s passion for all things red and white.

On top of all that, there are loads of Oldham lads all over Super League, while leading RL personalities such as Martin Hall, Paul and Danny Sculthorpe, Kevin Sinfield, Iestyn Harris and Barrie McDermott need no introduction here. All learned their rugby here – the town they call home – and became household names after early beginnings on Oldham Edge and other such stretches of grass in the borough with rugby posts at one end.

Another Oldham lad who often gets overlooked in this regard is Marc Sneyd, winner of the Lance Todd Trophy as man-of-the-match in the Challenge Cup Final in successive finals, 2016 and 2017.

I remember Marc when he was a kid at St Anne’s and his Mum would serve me a meat and potato pie and assure me he was going to be a good ‘un. Going even further back there was Terry Fogerty. What a forward he was ! A Clarksfield lad who never played for his home town team but, like Sneyd and many, many others a lad who was born and brought up here and went on to make a name for himself in rugby league.

From little acorns grow . . . need I say more about that famous “made in Oldham” trademark and the influence this town continues to bring on the game that clearly means so much to its people,

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