‘Lippy’ heads Down Under

Date published: Thursday, December 19, 2013

SCOTT Naylor has confirmed that Oldham RL Club’s No 1 shirt is up for grabs because Richard Lepori is leaving the club to sample a new life in Australia.

The 22-year-old full-back, one of the Roughyeds’ star performers in 2013, has been heavily involved in pre-season training at Oldham for the past five weeks, but he hasn’t signed a new contract and he leaves on January 9 to join up with a club in Northern Queensland.

Said coach Naylor: “Saying farewell to ‘Lippy’ will be a huge loss, but we wish him well in his new venture and we move on.

“We just get on with it. Opportunity knocks for somebody else. Somebody will step into the full-back role and make a real fist of it, of that I’m sure.”

Lepori, formerly with Salford and Castleford, leaves after only one season at Whitebank in which he quickly became a fans’ favourite and crowned an eye-catching campaign by twice representing Italy against Germany and Serbia.

He was disappointed when not selected for his country’s World Cup squad despite three tries in one game and a man-of-the-performance in the other.

He was the latest in a long line of attacking full-backs to delight Roughyeds’ followers, going back to the early days of the ‘new’ Oldham club and including Mark Sibson, Gavin Dodd, Jon Goddard, Paul O’Connor, Ben Heaton and Miles Greenwood.

He will be playing for Atherton Roosters, a club in the Tablelands region of northern Queensland, coached by former St Helens and London Broncos star Karl Hammond.

“They’ve got me a job in farming, so I’m facing a massive change in lifestyle,” said Lepori.

“I’ve got a 12-month visa, and I can extend it for another year. I’m going with an open mind. I might love it, I might not. Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure: I’m going to sample something new while I’m still young and however it turns out I’ll gain from the experience.

“I had made the decision before Oldham’s defeat in the play-off final. Winning that final and gaining promotion wouldn’t have altered anything.

“I also had an offer from another club to play in the Championship, but my mind was made up because if I don’t do this now I never will.

“I graduated from university last summer, but I haven’t yet started on a career path. I have no ties, so now is the perfect time to go.

“I’ll miss Oldham and I’ll miss the lads. They’re a great bunch and, apart from defeat in the final, we had a fantastic season. I’ve been training with them for the last five weeks and as each week went by I knew it was going to be tough to leave all that behind.

“I want to thank the fans for their support. I’m sure they’ll have a lot more happy times in 2014 because the boys are training like mad and there’s a real buzz around the place even though the first pre-season game is still six weeks away.”

Season tickets at last year’s prices are on offer until 5pm tomorrow and can be bought with cash or cheque at Whitebank between 11.30am and 1pm tomorrow. Alternatively, ring the club on 0161 624 9630, ext 70552.