In-form Nield making up for lost time

Date published: Tuesday, July 8, 2014
LOYALTY and perseverance have paid off for Steven Nield who, in his fourth season at Whitebank, has finally got the job he always wanted.
He has played consistently well at full-back in Oldham’s last eight games, stretching back to the 48-28 home win against Oxford at the beginning of May.
In the next game he scored the sensational, last-gasp try that gave Roughyeds a 31-30 win against York and his confidence and self-belief have grown steadily ever since.
Life at Whitebank is sweet right now for the former Saddleworth Rangers junior, whose fans include hundreds of children to whom he teaches sport in local schools as part of his full-time day job.
It wasn’t always like that.
Last season, his first as a member of the senior squad, he couldn’t get his hands on his favourite full-back’s shirt, which was then worn by Italian international Richard Lepori.
Elsewhere, in a back line dominated by Mo Agoro, David Cookson, Jon Ford and Dale Bloomfield there were few opportunities for Nield to show his versatility at centre or wing.
He made only six senior appearances, all of them at centre and all of them in the early part of the campaign.
For the remainder of the year he was on the outside looking in, back in the under-20s and playing variously at full-back, centre and wing.
“It was tough at the time. Everybody was playing well and I couldn’t get an opening. I just had to bide my time,” said Nield.
“It was hard to get into the team, but I could see how well the other lads were playing so I had to accept it. It was just one of those things.”
Lepori’s departure at the end of last season created an opening at full-back, but Nield then found himself in competition with another local, Tom Whitehead, who lost his place after a bad defeat at Hunslet on Good Friday.
Nield added: “I’ve had to be patient, but I’m getting a good run now and I’m loving every minute.
“Everyone is starting to click. We are playing well as a team and hopefully we are coming good at the right time.
“We’ve got some massive games coming up, starting with Gloucester at Whitebank on Sunday, but if we play to the best of our ability we should be okay.
“We didn’t have a massive winning margin at their place, but I felt we were always in control of the game.”
Like Danny Langtree and Kenny Hughes, Oldham-born Nield was a product of academy rugby at St Helens before he signed for Roughyeds’ reserves as a 20-year-old in 2011.
All three starred in an Oldham second team that beat Widnes Vikings in the 2011 play-off final and lost to Featherstone in the 2012 final.
Only Langtree, with two appearances off the bench, got a sniff of first-team rugby in 2012 but the three of them were promoted to the 2013 senior squad, coinciding with the arrival at Whitebank of Scott Naylor and Lee Spencer as a coaching duo.
Langtree (23 games) and Hughes (19 games) were key members of the side in Naylor’s first year, but Nield is now making up for lost time — and how.