Goodbye to a Roughyeds forward Geoff Robinson

Date published: Monday, December 19, 2011

GEOFF Robinson, the speedy back-row forward who played 177 first-class games for Oldham RL Club between 1959 and 1965, has died in his native Cumbria at the age of 77. His funeral was due to take place today (mon) in a village near Penrith where he had lived for several years.

His signing from Whitehaven shortly before the start of the 1959-60 season hit the rugby league headlines because Oldham paid a transfer fee of £9,000 which was then a world record for a forward.

Only a few months earlier, in March, 1959, the big-spending Watersheddings outfit had also raided Cumbria to pay Workington Town £10,650 for Test winger Ike Southward, the first five-figure outlay in the history of the sport.

The Oldham committee — it was still a members’ club —- was striving to rebuild after the break-up of the magnificent team that won the Lancashire Cup in 1956, 1957 and 1958 and lifted the RL championship in 1957, beating Hull 15-14 at Odsal in a thrilling championship final in front of a 62,000 crowd.

Robinson made his debut at loose-forward in a 27-12 win against Leeds at Watersheddings on the opening day of the 1959-60 season and played much of that season as the legendary Charlie Winslade’s second-row partner.

Challenge Cup wins against Huddersfield, amateurs Walney Central and Bramley, all at home, took the Roughyeds into a semi-final against Hull at Swinton but not for the first time, nor the last, Wembley hopes were dashed at the last hurdle with Hull winning 12-9.

Robinson played loose-forward in a team that lined up like this: Ganley; Southward, Davies, Noon, Nestor; Kellett, Pitchford; Smith, McIntyre, Dufty, Winslade, McKeown, Robinson.

Four years on, by which time Oldham had slipped into the second division, Robinson was to play a headline-hitting role in another Challenge Cup semi-final that was once again to break Oldham hearts after an epic three-game battle with first division Hull KR.

He was left out of the side that initially drew 5-5 with Rovers at Headingley, but the loss through injury of captain and loose-forward Dave Parker gave Robinson his big chance in the first replay at Swinton where Harry Major was switched from second-row to loose and Robinson joined Stuart Whitehead in the second-row.

In another thriller that captivated a crowd of 27,209 two magnificent late goals by player-coach Frank Dyson rescued Oldham to lock up the tie at 14-14 at the end of normal time.

Robinson’s extra time try in the corner edged Oldham ahead 17-14, but while still in the first period of extra time referee Dennis Davies abandoned the tie due to failing light. Rovers couldn’t believe their good fortune and in the second replay at Fartown they were comfortably the better side in a 12-2 victory.

The Oldham team in each of the two replays was: Dyson; Sims, Donovan, Smethurst, Simms; Nestor, Pycroft; Bott, McIntyre, Wilson, Robinson, Whitehead, Major.

A year later Robinson transferred to Warrington before ending his 14-year professional career at Rochdale, where his former Oldham colleague Johnny Noon had taken over as player-coach.

Robinson lived in Springhead and worked in Oldham for many years after he retired from rugby.

A lover of the great outdoors, he was part of a British expedition to the Himalayas in 1970, while he was also awarded a Royal Humane Society medal for rescuing a young woman from drowning while he was walking in Wharfedale.