ORL Heritage Trust - Hall of Fame
Depicted here is one of the most spectacular of rugby paintings. Over the last 135 years or so Oldham Rugby League Club has not just produced many international and county players but has attracted famous players from each corner of the rugby playing world. The painting is of 42 of these players from many eras, from many countries, frozen in one moment of time.
There are currently 18 players included in the club’s Hall of Fame. There could easily be 100. Deciding on those eventually selected was a nightmare.
You only need to consider who’s not included! Players of the calibre of former England captain James Lomas, New Zealand ‘All Gold’ vice-captain George (G.W.) Smith, Australian internationals A. E. (George) Anlezark, Syd Dean, Viv Farnsworth and Bob Lindner, British tourists Bert Avery, Tom Helm, Evan Davies, Albert Brough, Ernie Knapman, Sid Rix, Bob Sloman , Doug Phillips, Terry O’ Grady, Ken Jackson, Frank Pitchford, Terry Clawson, Ray Ashton, Mick Worrall, Des Foy, Mike Ford, Hugh Waddell and David Bradbury. And what about the three Watersheddings’ men who each played such an important part in the most famous test match of all time - the Rorkes’ Drift Test played out on Sydney Cricket Ground back in 1914 – Alf Wood, Billy Hall and David Holland. Let’s not forget either the club’s early pathfinders each gaining rugby union international selection whilst playing for Oldham - Bill McCutcheon, David Gwynn and Abe Ashworth. Add to that lot the man whose try 100 years ago won the first ever Ashes decider – Oldham born winger George Tyson and who would dare leave out a character who went by the name of ‘Mad’ Arthur Smith a West County man who played in the first test series back in 1907 – 08 against the New Zealand ‘All Golds’. In 1904 Oldham provided five players to the first ever international England vs. Other Internationals four of which are currently not in the Hall of Fame – Cumbrian Frank Spottiswoode, Scotsman George Frater and Welshmen Dai Thomas and David Lewis.
There could be added a myriad of other Roughyeds not mentioned above – international, county and long service players alike.
Here then are the 18:
Fred Ashworth, a strong running and fierce defending Cumbrian forward, joined Oldham in 1926.
Although still only a teenager he was immediately installed in the first team pack where he would represent the Roughyeds for the next twelve years.
Like fellow forward and Hall of Fame inductee Jack Read he played in the 1927 Challenge Cup final team that beat Swinton in the final.
He played 436 times for Oldham and thirteen for Cumberland.
After his retirement as a player he continued to serve the club as a member of the committee.
Alan Davies is regarded by many supporters as the best player ever to have played for Oldham RLFC and the fact that he is the most capped player in the history of the club would certainly add weight to the argument.
Alan joined Oldham from Leigh amateur club Dootsons in July 1950 and made his senior debut on September 9th in the 35 - 8 victory over Wakefield, on the left wing.
However, it was as a centre that Alan would build his reputation - one of the GREATEST centres the game has ever known. He lacked nothing in confidence, having great belief in his own ability. Apparently when he first got into the side some of the more senior players gave him the nickname, "Waggy", after the legendary Huddersfield captain Harold Wagstaff. The association between the two, though probably originated in jest to bring the precocious youth down to size, was not out of place.
He was the complete Rugby League player, capable of displaying all the skills associated with top class threequarter play. He had a good eye for an opening and enough pace to capitalise on the opportunity and also a good handler and passer of the ball with strength and determination to make the half chance into a score. On defence he was equally resolute with great timing allied to hard and decisive tackling.
Alan played in all the successes of the 1950's for Oldham and captained the side in the 1954-55, Championship final at Maine Road against Warrington. Considered extremely unlucky to miss out on the 1954 tour, he won 20 Great Britain caps, scoring eight tries and strangely enough two goals for his country (one more than he kicked for Oldham), played many times for Lancashire and got his deserved place on the 1958 tour "Down Under". Add to this the fact that he is the leading, all time, try scorer for the club and it is easy to see why he was elected as an original member to the Oldham RLFC "Hall of Fame".
Appearances: 391 Tries: 174 Goals: 1 Points: 524
Seventeen-year-old Welsh union back Mike Elliott joined the Roughyeds in 1962.
Occasionally a centre, but best remembered as a right-winger who was the Roughyeds’ leading try scorer on six occasions, and whose 153 touchdowns has been bettered by only two other Oldham players.
His total of 446 appearances is the most by any Oldham three-quarter.
Still lives in the town.
John Etty - (1955 - 1959)
John Etty was born in the Yorkshire wool town of Batley and would give just under ten years great service to the "Gallant Youths", before he was lured over the Pennines to assist Oldham. Although his favourite and most effective position was on the wing, he often played at centre for Batley, this being so that the tall, well-built threequarter would be able to take on more defensive duties. While at "The Mount" John represented Yorkshire County and a British Empire Xlll.
So it was that after joining Oldham in January 1955, he played eleven games in the centre position, with only reasonable success. The following season he was switched to the wing with immediate effect. His barnstorming runs down the flank made him a great favourite with the Watersheddings fans. The 1956-57 season was a personal triumph for John, when he established the Oldham post war try record with 43 touchdowns, which included two in the Championship final against Hull at Odsal and one in the Lancashire Cup Final triumph over St Helens.
The golden streak of form that John found that year was a major contribution to the Championship coming to Oldham.
John has published his autobiography called "A Rugby League Winner" and, considering that while with Oldham and later at Wakefield he won every domestic honour the game had to offer, the title is most appropriate.
Appearances: 150 Tries: 90 Goals: 0 Points: 270
There can be no doubt that any player in the whole history of Oldham RLFC has made his presence felt or left an impression quite like Joe Ferguson.
A native of 'Ellenboro', Cumberland, Joe signed for Oldham in time for the 1899 season, after having been invited by the club to attend the previous season's Challenge Cup Final. This was when Oldham defeated Hunslet and the effect was enough to convince the young Ferguson his future lay with Oldham in the face of competition from Halifax.
Joe was a forward, this being in the days when the individual "pack" positions were much less defined than they are today, but as the game evolved he became a front row man, playing both hooker and prop. A strong robust performer on both attack and defence, he was also a fine goalkicker and on no fewer than eleven occasions he was the top Oldham marksman and would occasionally play at full back. Always a player for the big occasion, he once landed a mighty drop goal from the half way line, to clinch a 4 - 3 victory over Swinton in the Lancashire Cup final of 1910.
He had the distinction of representing his country at 15, 13 and 12-a-side rugby football, the latter being an experimental idea played at Wigan against Other Nationalities in 1904. Surprisingly he never got to play in a test rated international, but he did captain "England" to victory over the 1907 New Zealand tourists despite the fact that the "All Golds", won the test series against the full British team. Joe was also an automatic selection for the first tour in 1910, but declined to go for business reasons.
At county level his record is second to none, having been capped 15 times by his adopted Lancashire and, after a change in the qualification rules, appearanced 31 times for Cumberland. He also became the first captain to raise aloft the Infirmary (Law) Cup when it was introduced for competition between Oldham and Rochdale in 1921.
The only domestic honour to elude him was a Challenge Cup winners medal, although he played in two finals in 1907 and 1912. With over 600 appearances for the club he is over 150 ahead of his nearest rival and but for the First World War his total would have been approaching the 700 mark. His last game was at St Helens on April 14th, 1923 at the age of forty-four.
Was Joe the greatest "Roughyed / Bear" of all time ? Many people think so and on the evidence of the above details few could disagree.
Appearances: 627 Tries: 58 Goals: 540 Points: 1,254
Terry Flanagan joined the Roughyeds in the summer of 1979. Signed from Saddleworth Rangers, he was soon making his presence felt in the first team as a clever, ball-playing, loose forward.
In his first season he made 24 appearances, helping the team to promotion and the following season became the youngest ever Oldham club captain whilst still only nineteen.
He represented Great Britain at Colts and Under 24 levels before winning the first of his four full caps in 1983. Selected for the 1984 tour, but during the Australian leg was troubled with injuries, recovering in time to force his way into the test team in New Zealand and went on to be awarded ‘man of the match’ in the game against Papua New Guinea.
During his ten years at Watersheddings he played in 281 first class games for Oldham scoring 41 tries and also represented Lancashire on two occasions.
William Bernard Ganley signed for Oldham originally as an amateur in August 1950, turning professional one year later. His father Bert had played for Leigh, Huddersfield and Leeds. Bernard was, of course, a full back, but had played at half back in his amateur days with the Leigh Spinners club.
His debut came in the match against Liverpool Stanley on March 3rd, 1951, his contribution being two goals in a 16 - 3 victory over the Merseysiders. A humble beginning to a truly remarkable career. The following 1951-52 season saw Bernard become the first Oldham player to land over 100 goals, finishing with a total of 106.
This was only the tip of the iceberg as records tumbled to the Ganley boot. He would surpass the 100 mark on another six occasions and in 1957-58 became the first player in history to kick 200 goals, in club matches only. 1958-59 brought him another record that of goals in a match, splitting the uprights fourteen times with Liverpool again being on the receiving end on April 4th, 1959.
Bernard played in all the cup-final wins in the 1950's and not surprisingly scored in each one, with his kicking expertise being supplemented by a rare try in the 1957 Lancashire Cup Final victory over Wigan. He gained county honours and three full Great Britain caps, all against the French. His debut yielded him five goals and another try ! The second appearance saw Bernard again creating records, with ten goals as the French were demolished to the tune of 44 - 15 at Wigan.
There have been many great goal kickers in Rugby League, but for the Oldham fans there has never been anyone to compare with "The Maestro". Bernard was the most lethal of marksmen and broke many the heart of opposing teams and their supporters, with his deadly accuracy, whether it was part of a runaway win or tipping the balance for a single point victory.
Appearances: 341 Tries: 15 Goals: 1,358 Points: 2761
Born in Newport, Alex Givvons came to Oldham from the Cross Keys union club in 1933.
A speedy, agile and enthusiastic halfback who eventually made the transition to loose forward and gained Welsh international honours. Six times he represented his country (always finishing on the winning side) and twice toured France with the British R.L. Xlll. After a spell with Huddersfield, Alex returned to Watersheddings where he ended his playing days.
He played in a total of 241 first class matches for the Roughyeds, continuing to give many more years service as a member of both the coaching and back room staff. In January 1995, sixty-two years after his arrival in Oldham, he performed the unveiling of the initial Oldham R.L. Hall of Fame.
Andy Goodway came to the club early in 1979, after being spotted playing for Castleford amateur team Redhill against Saddleworth Rangers. This was when Oldham were recruiting the lads that were to become the all-conquering Colts team.
He made his debut at Bramley in the last game of the 1979-80 season, but did not play in the first team again until the Second Division Championship winning 1981-82 campaign, when he gained a reputation as a rugged "tearaway" of a second row forward. Andy was quite at home in the higher league and won Great Britain Under 24 honours in January 1983. Full international selection soon followed and he went on to win 11 caps during his first spell with Oldham, including all the tests on the 1984 tour and had the honour of being Great Britain captain in 1985.
He left for Central Park later that year, where he enjoyed tremendous success in the Wigan team of "all stars". Later he had a short spell at Leeds, before returning to Watersheddings for the 1993-94 season. Andy's experience was to prove a vital factor in the club surviving that term back in the first division and he finished the season as assistant coach to Bob Lindner. When the famous Australian decided his future lay back home, Andy was offered the job of first team coach at Oldham. This he accepted, hanging up his boots in the process and on very limited resources he steered the club into a position in "Super League".
Andy was one of seven players chosen to be original members of the Oldham Rugby League "Hall of Fame", when it was first opened in November 1995.
Appearances: 136 (incl 11 sub) Tries: 31 Goals: 0 Points: 113
Herman Hilton was one of the greatest forwards ever to play for Oldham RLFC.
A local man, he joined the club from the local "Healey Street" team in November 1913, making his senior debut on December 15th against Leeds at Watersheddings.
In his younger days he was a vigorous, robust player with a deceptive turn of speed and capable of crunching tackles. As he matured he would go on to become a fine loose or second row forward, excelling in both the domestic and international arenas. In later years the bulkier Hilton would fill in at prop forward, but retained the skills and fitness to still shine in the back row when required.
Selected for the 1920 tour, he enjoyed a marvellous trip and is probably the Oldham player to make the biggest impact "Down Under".
Herman played in all six tests, scoring two tries, in the "Ashes" winning third Australian match in Sydney and adding a further score in the second Kiwi test, in Christchurch. His personal favourite international appearance came in the match that decided the "Ashes" once again, when the Kangaroos of 1921-22 came to Britain. This was the third test at Salford on January 14th, 1922. A bruising encounter which the "Lions" won 6 - 0. Herman was again on the score sheet, taking a pass from the "prince of centres", Harold Wagstaff to dive over, taking two Australians with him as he crossed the line.
In 1924-25 having played prop for most of the season he was reinstated at loose forward to great effect and from that position captained the team to success in the Challenge Cup final against Hull K.R. He then suffered a serious illness in the close season and, although attempting a short comeback, he decided to call it a day, having played his last match in November 1925, against Wigan.
Appearances: 253 Tries: 40 Goals: 1 Points: 122
Signed from the St Joseph's amateur club in Huddersfield in January 1965, when still only sixteen, Bob had a meteoric rise to senior status in the Oldham side and was in the first team before the end of the 1964-65 season.
Bob was a second row forward whose greatest asset was his powerful surges when in possession. One of the truly great "running" forwards to have played for the club, he would not have been out of his depth in any of the teams from more illustrious periods in the history of Oldham RLFC.
Honours came quickly and he was soon representing Great Britain Under 24's against the French. Yorkshire county selection followed and by the time he left to join Wigan in 1973, he had won eleven full Great Britain caps. He was also selected for the 1970 tour to Australia and New Zealand. This was achieved despite the 1969-70 season being the worst in the history of the club and his inclusion speaks volumes for the form and dedication of the player in such adverse circumstances.
One match that will always stand out in the memory was a Challenge Cup second round replay against Bradford on "leap" day (Feb 29th) 1968. Northern were the form team at the time and in front of over 18,000 spectators, Bob turned in a super show to run in two tries, in a famous 12 - 2 victory.
Appearances; 296 (incl 3 sub) Tries: 80 Goals: 0 Points: 240
Arthur Lees, born in the village bearing his surname, joined Oldham in 1892 when it was still a member of the English Rugby Union.
He made his senior debut at the age of eighteen and by the time of the ‘breakaway’ to form the Northern Union (which in turn would become the Rugby Football League) he was the regular half back partner to English union international Harry Varley.
He was promoted to club captain in 1899 and that season became the first captain of a Lancashire club to hold aloft the Challenge Cup when Oldham beat Hunslet in the final. He played for Lancashire, both before and after the ‘breakaway’, and in the 1907 Challenge Cup final against Warrington.
After topping 400 first team matches he continued to serve the club as a committee member.
Sid Little - (1951/52 - 1958/59)
Born near Carlisle, Sid Little an ex - R.A.F. pilot and both Harlequin and Cumberland union player, joined Oldham in1952.
A fast second row forward, he would form a tremendous back row partnership with ball-playing Charlie Winslade in the fabulous team of the 50’s. He made his try scoring Great Britain debut in the third test against Australia at Swinton in 1956 when the Lions secured the Ashes, the first of ten consecutive international appearances, including a trip to Australia for the 1957 World Cup.
Also made eight appearances for Cumberland at league. In later life Little was awarded the OBE for services to youth.
Signed in early December 1966, Martin Murphy made his debut against his home town club of Leigh just a few weeks later. When the slightly built full back took the field on that chilly December Saturday afternoon, I am sure none of the 2,866 spectators present gave him much chance of lasting the game out, never mind the whole season. As it happened, "Murph" didn't play the whole game having to retire after taking a crunching tackle from opposite number Colin Tyrer, which left him needing stitches in his mouth, but typical of his courage he came back to finish the match.
That game was typical of the resolve of Murphy, who went on to finish that season and embark on a career that would span three decades of great service to the "Roughyeds".
He went on to become the leading post war appearance maker for the club and played in every position in the back division. It is, of course, as a full back that Martin will be best remembered, especially for copy book defence, taking down the heftiest forwards, tricky half backs or speedy threequarters with the same total thoroughness and efficiency. Surely one of the fastest full backs ever to wear the Oldham colours, he won the BBC try of the season award for a long range effort against Leigh in the Floodlit Trophy semi final in 1972.
Capped by Lancashire, he also made one appearance for England, scoring a last gasp try to clinch a 11 - 9 victory against the French in Perpignan, on January 19th, 1975.
Probably the last of the great clubmen of Oldham RLFC, Martin had the honour to captain the team in the centenary season of 1976-77.
Appearances: 462 (incl 7 sub) Tries: 52 Goals: 0 Points: 156
Harry Ogden - (1940/41 - 1955/56)
Harry Ogden joined his hometown club in 1940, at the age of sixteen.
He made his debut against Broughton Rangers the same season, a remarkable achievement for so young a prop forward, and was still wearing the number eight shirt in 1955 when Oldham faced Warrington in the Championship final at Maine Road.
A first team regular until a serious leg injury sustained at Workington in 1956 curtailed his career. When one considers that his early games for the club were in the disrupted wartime period of 1940-45, Ogden’s 429 appearances is a truly remarkable achievement.
He was selected for the British Rugby League Xlll to tour France in 1946 and played in the 1954 Lancashire Cup final against Barrow.
Jack Read had represented Gloucestershire at union before signing for Oldham.
He made his debut against Hull on New Years Day 1926, the first of 463 first team matches that include the 1926 and 1927 Challenge Cup finals.
A prop forward with a tireless work rate, Read was selected to play for the British RL X111 in 1936 and is second only to the great Joe Ferguson on Oldham’s all-time appearance list.
Born in Leigh, Frank Stirrup came to Oldham from Salford in November 1950, making his senior debut on January 20th, 1951 in the match against Belle Vue Rangers. In that first match Frank played scrum half, but whether it be at the base of the scrum, stand off, wing, or full back, one thing was certain Frank would always give 100 % effort for the "Roughyeds". He could play scrum half to Daley, then stand off to Pitchford, then deputise at full back for Ganley, embracing each role with enthusiasm and the natural Stirrup rugby flair and belying his slight stature by demonstrating tremendous courage when called upon to defend.
A ball handler of sublime skill, he became known as "Mr Football", his sleight of hand exchanges, especially with Frank Daley, became legendary at Watersheddings.
Short passes, to put the likes of Little and Turner through the gap.
Long passes, to open up the way for Cracknell and Etty to fly down the wing.
No passes, leaving defenders tackling shadows as Frank dummied his way over for another try.
All these were part of the Stirrup armoury that used to thrill the Watersheddings crowd.
Considered desperately unlucky never to represent his country, Frank did play for Lancashire and was a most popular club captain in the Championship winning season of 1956-57, having been the first Oldham skipper to lift a major trophy for over 20 years, after the Lancashire Cup final success over St Helens at Swinton, on October 20th, 1956.
There were few, if any, players who left such a lasting impression on the Oldham supporters of being a Rugby League Football "entertainer", as did Frank Stirrup.
Appearances: 224 Tries: 49 Goals: 8 Points: 163
Oldham born Kevin Taylor signed for Oldham shortly after his 16th birthday and made his debut at Castleford in1963.
A hooker of the highest calibre, he was selected for the England Under-24’s in 1965 and went on to represent Lancashire and England.
He was an excellent player in the loose, noted especially for his support play, which twice led to him being the club’s top try scorer.
A model of consistency, Kevin ended his Roughyeds career at Salford in1977 but only after he had 429 games under his belt.
Derek "Rocky" Turner, came to Oldham from Hull K.R., playing his first match against Hunslet on September 3rd, 1955. A loose forward of immense power and fearless determination, Derek was seen by many as the last piece required to complete the puzzle that became the great team of the 1950's.
A born leader, with never a backward step, he demonstrated a terrific work rate on both attack and defence, giving everything in the eighty minutes while inspiring others to do the same and was always a thorn in the side of the opposition. Although it is interesting to note that he was never captain while at Watersheddings.
An integral part of the mid to late 1950's success of the club, his big regret was that the club never reached Wembley. Still history remembers Derek as one of the great Wembley captains after he led Wakefield Trinity to success at the famous London stadium in 1960-62-63. The Yorkshire team instantly recognising his leadership qualities.
Derek won eleven caps during his time with Oldham and was selected for the 1958 tour only to withdraw because of injury. He would realise this ambition after his move to Wakefield on the 1962 tour.
Appearances: 134 Tries: 35 Goals: 1 Points: 107