Presentation Night

Date published: Monday, October 10, 2011

A PRESENTATION night with a difference was enjoyed by a large gathering of Roughyeds players, their family members, club sponsors and supporters in the Whitebank social club last Friday, October 7.

Every available ticket was sold and those present were treated to five hours of fun and laughter in which the players themselves were invited on stage to play a lead role in the entertainment.

Andy Isherwood, who later announced his retirement from the sport, proved that he won’t be short of alternative things to do by taking up his guitar for half an hour or so and giving us a few songs.

Paul Noone also took to the mic to do a spot of crooning, while several players, including Lucas Onyango, Mark Brocklehurst, David Ellison, Paul Noone and Martin Roden, brought the house down when engaged in on-stage banter with Chris Hamilton, the MC for the evening.

Marcus St Hilaire, another player who hung up his boots at the end of the season, also went on stage to receive a special award in recognition of his “fantastic” service not only to Roughyeds, but also to rugby league in general.

Ishy said: “This year has proved one campaign too far for me. I’ve had a lot of injuries over the years and they are now taking their toll. They’re a great set of lads here at Oldham and super fans, but I know it’s time for me to call it a day.”

Junior (St Hilaire) said: “It was a difficult decision to retire. I won’t miss the bumps and bruises on a Monday morning, but rugby league has been a large part of my life since I was 12. I’m going to miss it, but it comes to everybody.

“My advice to kids is this: enjoy every minute of it while you can because time flies and the end will come quicker than you think.

“Talking of kids, I think Roughyeds have some of the best young backs in both Championship divisions and I honestly believe that the squad that is being assembled for 2012 will be strong enough to go all the way and win promotion.”

Ben Heaton, who is leaving to join Halifax, picked up two major awards —- the supporters’ player of the year, sponsored by ORSA and presented by its chairman Nigel Marland, and the players’ player of the year, backed by OHM Electrical Services and presented by assistant coach Martin Roden.

Chris H said: “We are disappointed Ben is leaving, but we take great pride in the fact that we have brought him up through the reserves and have developed him as a player. He isn’t the first to do that and he won’t be the last.”

Martin Roden said: “To be voted players’ player by your peers is a top honour. Ben laid down a marker pre season and performed well on and off the field all year. For Ben to go forward now is fantastic. We wish him all the best at Halifax and hope he goes from strength to strength.”

Ben H said there were other players more worthy than he for both awards.

He added: “I can’t believe I’m getting these two trophies. I’ve sweat blood and tears this year, but lots of other players have too. I’m not on my own there.

“I’m not leaving Oldham because I want to. I’m leaving because I have to if I want to fulfil my dream of playing in Super League. I’ve got to go now because the gap is widening all the time.

“I will never forget Oldham though. I started off here as a rookie and I can’t thank everybody enough for what they’ve done for me, especially Tony Benson and Martin Roden, the coaches.”

Tony B said: “There are lots of other players coming through, like Ben has done, and my ambition is to get as many young lads from Oldham as we can playing Championship rugby with the Roughyeds in 2013”

The coach’s player of the year, sponsored by Doughty’s Gym of Shaw, was Paul Noone. Said Tony B: “As well as game performances I took into account training, effort every week on and off the field and also how much impact the player made on and off the field. It was a tough decision but in the end there was only one — Paul Noone.”

Said Noone: “I have thoroughly enjoyed this year. And I really do think that with the lads who have signed already and those who are going to sign we will go all the way next year.”

David Murgatroyd, the Roughyeds’ official photographer, received the Clubman of the Year trophy for his loyal and time consuming effort as the man behind the lens, while there was a special presentation by Valu Bentley, on behalf of the players and coaching staff, to kit man Paul Hulbert and his wife Bev.

“Paul and Bev,” he said, “make us all feel special, not only as players but as individuals. A big thank-you to them.”

In bringing the formal part of the evening to a close, Chris H said: “In the wider scheme of things this club is moving forward rapidly. We are making advances on the ground, the reserves won their grand final, and we now have an Extended Scholarship squad.

“Over the years we have produced as many young players as any other club, and we are very proud of that. Of our Extended Scholarship squad only two are over-age for next year and they will probably move up to the reserves.

“Not many clubs at our level, or even in the Championship, do as much as we do in terms of developing our own players. Money is tight — we are in the middle of a world recession, the likes of which have never been seen before — but we keep on working and grafting and making progress.

“We learn from mistakes because we are always striving to get better. As you have all seen tonight, we have a closely-knit group of lads who, like the club they play for, are determined to get us out of this division.

“We just need a little bit more strengthening to make sure we can go that one step further.”