New-boy Tom a young man in a hurry

Date published: Wednesday, July 17, 2013
TOM Whitehead, Oldham RL Club’s latest signing, is a young man in a hurry.

With only four games left in the regular season, he’s got to get a move on if he is to win a place in the Roughyeds’ table-topping line-up.

Oldham-born Tom (21) played his first game for his hometown club at under-20s level against Salford City Reds last Friday and he is lined up for a second run-out against Hemel Stags at Whitebank on Saturday (2pm kick off).

The under-20s have only two games left after that, South Wales having withdrawn from the competition, so it isn’t difficult to deduce that Roughyeds have bigger things in mind for talented Tom, who can play full-back, stand-off, loose-forward and hooker.

Coach Scott Naylor, who worked with him at Salford, described him as “quality” and added: “He’s a talented and extremely good player; he’s quality all the way through.”

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind period for Whitehead, who was playing stand-off for Old Bar Pirates on the Central Coast of New South Wales, with his fellow Oldhamer and former North Wales Crusaders forward Anthony Morrison, until he came home for his sister’s wedding — and decided to stay.

Said Tom: “Oldham talked to me when I was leaving Salford, but I had already decided to go to Australia with Anthony.

“There are huge lifestyle differences, good and bad, between Oldham and Taree, our nearest town in Australia, but I found it very quiet out there and I missed all my mates in Oldham.

“When Roughyeds heard I was back they got in touch and I’ve signed for the rest of the season.

“It’s a boyhood dream come true, I guess, because my best mate Gaz (Gareth) Owen and I played together at Waterhead for years and we regularly watched Oldham and talked about perhaps playing for them one day.

“As it happened we both signed for Salford. Gaz is in the first-team squad down there now, but he played for them at Whitebank on Friday night when I pulled on an Oldham shirt for the first time.

“It’s all happened quickly and it seems to have come out of nothing, but I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to the next few weeks.”

Whitehead moved from Waterhead to Saddleworth Rangers when he was 17; had a brief spell with Huddersfield Giants; and was then courted by Salford where he stayed for three years and came under the influence of Lee Spencer, now assistant coach at Oldham.

Head coach Naylor was at Whitebank on Friday to give Whitehead the once-over.

Added Tom: “I can play a few positions and I’m happy to play anywhere. I was at full-back against Salford and I enjoyed it. I knew a lot of the Salford lads and it felt good to be back playing rugby on home soil.

“Salford had out a very strong side which included a few first-teamers and I thought the Oldham forwards stood up to them very well indeed.

“On a personal note it was my first game in ten weeks, so I wasn’t at my sharpest, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.

“We gave them a game, which is more than a lot of other sides have done, and now I’m looking forward to the Hemel match and whatever comes my way after that.”