John Noon

Date published: Monday, December 20, 2010

JOHN Noon, the former Oldham Rugby League Club centre and Rochdale Hornets player-coach, died in the Royal Oldham Hospital on Saturday, aged 75.

He had been in hospital for nearly two weeks after suffering a stroke at his home in Waterhead.

An Oldhamer born and bred, he signed for his hometown club from local amateur side Lowermoor in 1953, aged 18, and went on to give the Watersheddings club a decade of service during a period of success that was unparalleled in Oldham’s post-war history.

In 255 appearances between 1954 and 1964, he kicked 137 goals and scored 125 tries. Only three players — Alan Davies, Sid Rix and Mike Elliott — have scored more tries for Oldham than that.

In 1955-56 he played more games than anyone else (36 out of a possible 40) and he had the distinction, in 1958, of playing left centre to John Etty in the Oldham side that beat St Helens 12-2 in the final of the Lancashire Cup.

Despite competition for centre spots from the legendary Davies and the talented Dennis Ayres and Vinny Nestor, “Noonie” played in every back position for the club except scrum-half.

He is, however, best remembered as a centre — forceful on attack and uncompromising in defence. He topped the 20-try mark in three consecutive seasons, 1959-60, 1960-61 and 1961-62, and in 1962-63, by which time the great Bernard Ganley’s reign as king of goalkickers had come to an end, he was leading marksman.

He toured France with Great Britain under-21s and, in 1961, he scored one of Lancashire’s four tries in a 14-12 win against Yorkshire at Leigh.

Later appointed captain of Oldham, he was unfortunate to narrowly miss out on selection for Great Britain’s tour of Australia in 1962, having kicked five goals as a combined Oldham-Hornets side beat the touring New Zealanders 10-8 at Watersheddings on September 4, 1961.

His final game for Oldham was in the Law Cup match of 1964, after which he became captain and player-coach of Rochdale Hornets where he enjoyed considerable success.

When he finally retired from the professional game he became coach at Saddleworth Rangers, whom he led to a Standard Cup final triumph in 1971.

He worked for the Water Board as an industrial chemist in his younger days, but in later years he was well known as a local licensee, both in Oldham and Saddleworth.