Bloem book review

Date published: Monday, April 29, 2013

THE full story of Jamie Bloem’s relatively short stay at Watersheddings in season 1992-93 is told in his fascinating biography ‘In full Bloem’ (London League publications Ltd, £14.95).

The young South African was signed from Castleford by Oldham’s Australian coach Peter Tunks during a period of intense transfer activity in which so many players moved in, or out, that the club quickly became known as rugby league’s swop-shop.

Oldham were in the second of three divisions in which they coasted to promotion in second place behind Featherstone Rovers, but 11 points clear of third-placed Huddersfield.

Bloem made his debut on January 6, 1993 in a 36-0 win against Bramley at Watersheddings, lining up in the following team: Gibson; Bloem, Christie, Ropati, Ranson; Martyn, Kerry; Sherratt, Russell, Sheals, Tupaea, Bradbury, Pachniuk. Subs: Warburton, Graziano.

He went on to make 11 full appearances plus one as substitute — all of them on the wing apart from one appearance at full-back.

Fans will recall that he suffered a serious neck injury in the third round of the Challenge Cup against a star-spangled Bradford Northern side when hit by a hard but fair tackle from Paul Medley.

It was feared he had broken his neck and might never walk again, but initial worries proved unfounded, although the medical view was that he would miss the rest of the season after suffering severely torn ligaments and muscles in his back and neck.

Amazingly, he was back on Oldham’s wing 28 days and four games later — a courageous comeback that earned him the admiration of many Watersheddings fans.

Come the end of that season, though, he left Oldham to sign for Doncaster following claims that contractual promises had not been kept in relation to wages and payments for accommodation.

He was on the verge of going back to South Africa when one of the club’s other overseas players, New Zealander Iva Ropati, invited him to move in with him. Jamie lived in the Ropati household for the rest of the season before acquiring an agent and ultimately signing for Doncaster.

He was also to play for Widnes and Huddersfield, but mainly for Halifax before becoming a coach, commentator and grade one referee.

He was never far from headlines, be it for drug taking, an accusation of biting Lee Briers, charges of mouthing off to referees, declining pay cuts or scoring spectacular tries.

With the assistance of author Andrew Hardcastle, the Halifax club’s historian, Bloem has lifted the lid on his headline-hitting and turbulent rugby league career, giving a frank account of when he considered himself to be in the wrong — and also when he knew he was in the right.