Paul Hulbert steps down as kit man

Date published: Friday, September 14, 2012

HAVING missed only two games, home and away, in ten years as Oldham RL Club kit man, Paul Hulbert cleared up the Roughyeds dressing room for the last time after the final game of the season at Workington.

The 52-year-old electrician, a fan for most of his adult life, regarded his volunteer work for the club as a labour of love and, as such, he never counted the hours or resorted to clock watching.

“Devotion beyond the call of duty,” was how club chairman Chris Hamilton once described Paul’s contribution to all things Roughyeds when presenting him with a clubman-of-the-year award.

A measure of his commitment was his preference to travel early to away games in his own car, with the team’s kit, so that the away dressing room was spick-and-span, with kit on pegs, by the time the players walked in.

Over many years, and with his wife Bev by his side, he drove thousands of motorway miles across the country, so that he would arrive at away grounds an hour or so before the players on the team bus.

“That way, I was able to do a better job,” said Paul, “and there was less hustle and bustle in the dressing room before the game. For the players it was more like walking into their home dressing room, and it gave me more time to help out with the many other tasks that need to be done before a game.”

A routine job for him on Monday mornings was to take dirty kit to a laundry before he headed off to work. He would collect it later in the week, after which shirts and shorts would be hung on hangers — in the garage of his Waterhead home.

He would also make sure the players always had a plentiful supply of fruit, flap jacks, jaffa cakes and energy drinks, while he has also been known to turn his hand on match days to time-keeping, water carrying and assisting in the management of the bench and use of substitutes.

Added Paul: “There’s a lot more to the job than looking after kit and tidying up the dressing room after the game.

“RFL rules and regulations have to be followed to the letter and I’ll be around for a few games at the start of next season to help the new man, James Barrington-Hunt, get into the swing of things.”

Paul’s wife Bev will continue to help out at home games in the ticket office and the hospitality suite, where daughter Kelly completes a trio of Hulbert volunteers.

Said Paul: “I’ll carry on being a match-day volunteer, but after ten years as kit man, which also involves work during the week and on training nights, I felt it was time to move aside and let somebody else have a go.

“Also, I was made redundant from work a few weeks ago and I am now building up my own electrical business, which will take up a lot of time and energy.

“I’ve loved every minute of the Roughyeds job; met wonderful people; and made friends for life.

“Bev has been at my side all the way, and done a lot of the driving, and I couldn’t possibly have done it without her.”

They have missed only two games in more than 300, both for family commitments.

Highlights were the four Grand Finals, 2007 to 2010 inclusive, and a memorable match at Blackpool near the end of the 2010 season which Roughyeds snatched 24-22 with a last-minute try by Michael Fogerty.

“There was a lot riding on that game for several reasons,” he recalled, “and it turned out to be an absolute cracker.

“We won it with Foggy’s try on the last play of the game. Tony Benson gave me a hug and we were jumping up and down with joy on the touchline.

“I’ve loads of memories . . . that’s one I will never forget.”