Record-breaker Neil calls it a day

Date published: Friday, October 11, 2013

ROUGHYEDS record breaker Neil Roden has officially announced his retirement as a player to mark the end of an era at the ‘new’ Oldham RL Club, formed in 1997.

In his two spells at Oldham — 2000 to 2004 inclusive and 2007 to 2013 inclusive — he amassed a club record 296 cup and league appearances, scoring 113 tries, another club best that is unlikely to be surpassed.

Such is his affinity with the club he first joined as a 19-year-old from Wigan Warriors that he would like to retain an official connection, perhaps in a backroom role.

He said: “It was a tough decision, but I know myself it’s time to call it a day. I’m 33 and I’ve had a good run with relatively few injuries.

“My personal stats don’t look too bad; I’ve got great memories; I’ve made friends for life; and I’ve enjoyed every minute of my playing career, nearly all of it proudly wearing Oldham colours.

“We’ve had some disappointments — don’t mention grand finals — but we’ve had some great times too and I would like to thank everyone with whom I’ve shared those ups and downs over the years, team mates, club officials and fans who have always supported me through thick and thin.”

The son of Wigan’s chief scout, Jack Roden, Neil and his pal Phil Farrell arrived at Oldham from the Warriors in the Spring of 2000 when Mike Ford was player-coach.

He made his debut off the bench in a 61-26 defeat at Featherstone to launch a distinguished Roughyeds career in which he played in four play-off finals; was twice named in divisional team-of-the-year sides (2007 and 2010); played in every game of the 2001 and 2007 seasons; top-scored with 20 tries in 2002; and played alongside 23 different half-backs.

He played mainly at scrum-half in his early days but in his second spell, after two seasons at Batley and Leigh, he was an automatic choice at stand-off.

Of the many half-backs he partnered, he made most appearances alongside James Coyle (49 times), David Gibbons (30) and Gareth Barber (26).

Said Neil: “I’ll never forget my first try for the club. It was at Batley in my third game, but the first time I had been in the starting line-up.

“The following season we had that amazing run to the play-off final. We were one game off Super League, but Widnes beat us in the final at Spotland.”

It was the first of four final setbacks for Roden, who was partnered by David Gibbons in 2001, James Coyle in 2007, Thomas Coyle in 2009 and Greg McNally in 2010.

He added: “It’s difficult to name outstanding players because there were so many over the years, but Phil Farrell, my mate, was a fantastic captain; Mark Sibson was a freak finisher, who scored some of the best individual tries I’ve ever seen; Paul O’Connor was brilliantly consistent; and then there were naturally gifted players like Shane McMenemy and Bryan Henare.

“As for the present squad, nobody would have tipped us to finish one win off the championship when Scott (head coach Naylor) and ‘Spanner’ (assistant Lee Spencer) assembled such a young squad.

“The coaches did a great job, but credit the lads too because they put in a phenomenal amount of work and never once did Scott have a need to resort to the hard word.

“We have a lot of young players who can definitely go on to play at a higher level and that can only promise much for the 2014 season.

“It was a strange season for me because I was always used to playing every game, but half way through Scott talked to me about playing a sort of in-between role, player and mentor, and I was able to give a lot of advice to the lads, who readily took it on board.

“I would like to keep involved if possible so long as I can spend a bit more time now with my wife Tanya and two-year-old daughter Iyla.”