Howard Hill

Date published: Monday, March 22, 2010

A new rugby league book/brochure that may be of interest to Oldham fans is Howard Hill’s testimonial publication, a glossy, 74-page A4 size tribute to the popular Whitehaven and former Oldham, Hull KR and Swinton centre or back-row forward.

Though essentially a tale of Cumbria and Cumbrians, ‘Howard Hill — Testimonial 1994-2010’ provides the reader with a fascinating insight into our sport, tracking Howard’s progress from childhood days at the Hensingham amateur club to becoming one of Whitehaven’s most loyal and respected post-war players.

En route, of course, he spent four years at Watersheddings, and his time in Oldham alongside his close friend and fellow Cumbrian Chris McKinney is well documented, both in words and pictures.

Howard himself, his father Tony, his best mate McKinney and former Chronicle rugby league writer Roger Halstead all put their own slant on the player’s time at Oldham, but what about this classic piece of telling it as it was from Howard’s wife Leeanne.

She writes: “I was very much a home bird prior to moving to Oldham, and the thought of leaving my family behind was one of the scariest moments of my life.

“Having said that, if my mother had had her way, my initial move down there wouldn’t have come off.

“Howard and Chris (McKinney) had moved down to Oldham some time earlier and were renting a place that the club paid for. Being young lads they were forever having parties, which all the overseas players and I think half the Oldham club attended.

“My mam and dad helped me to move down from Whitehaven, but when we got to the house it looked like a bomb had hit the place! The kitchen was full of mouldy plates and rubbish and the living room was full of bodies from the night before.

“My mam, who I don’t think had ever seen anything like that before, started crying and threatened to take me right back home.

“However, things did improve and even though I became the ‘live-in maid’ I soon settled down and thoroughly enjoyed it.

“People like Joe Faimalo, Jason Temu and Rachel and Chris McKinney became lifelong friends. We made the best of the opportunities we had at that time and I have some wonderful memories, not only from Oldham but also from each of the clubs Howard has played for.”

Or what about this from McKinney: “Former Whitehaven hooker Alan MCurrie was assistant coach to Andy Goodway at Oldham and was probably the biggest influence on getting us both down there.

“We knew Alan from his time at Lowca and his previous association with Hensingham. Another ex-Hensingham lad Paul (Pip) Davidson signed for Oldham a few weeks later and with Howard and myself being a couple of young lads living away from home for the first time, having familiar faces around was a great help.

“When we first started living there we tended to hang around with the lads who lived in the Oldham area. Most of the ‘local’ lads were overseas players — like Jason Temu, Joe Faimalo and Matt Munro who were all regular visitors to our place and to the infamous parties we had in those days.

“It didn’t matter whether we had been out for the night or not, the Kiwis always seemed to end up back at our place regardless.

“We were always losing our keys for this house, but by breaking a little side window we could get in. It got to the stage where we were replacing the glass in the window every week so we eventually ended up putting a piece of cardboard in its place.

“However, because everyone at the club was aware of this you never knew who was going to be sitting in the living room when we got home.”

Howard turned down several clubs, including Wigan and Leeds, before he signed for Oldham, and it was a decision his father Tony never regretted.

Tony takes up the tale: “We spoke to several clubs and had offers of a kind from them all, but some hadn’t even seen him play.

“The club that most impressed me, and came up with an offer that suited Howard and themselves, was Oldham. I remember talking to Peter Tunks, who was coach at the time and who had seen him playing here and a couple of times in Australia with the BARLA team.

“Peter was of the same opinion as myself in that he thought Howard’s best position was loose-forward.

“By the time Howard came to sign for Oldham, Tunks had gone and Andy Goodway and Alan McCurrie were in charge.

“He had four good years at a decent club and even though Oldham would end up going to the wall I still maintain it was a good move at the time.”

Other contributors are Des Byrne (chairman of the testimonial committee), Trevor Laverick (who coached Howard at Hensingham from the age of seven), Craig Murdock (who reveals that he nearly signed for Oldham too), Paul Cullen, Karl Edmondson, Harry Edgar (editor of ‘Rugby League Journal’), Steve McCormack, David Seeds, Dave Rotheram, Ged Stokes, Martin Morgan of Cumbnan Newspapers and Bob Sewell of the testimonial committee.

The Howard Hill story is priced at £5 with no additional cost for posting. To order a copy or for further information contact Bob Sewell by email to:bob_sewell9@hotmail.com