IT IS the 10th anniversary celebration of Oulton Raiders’ one and – so far – only National Conference League title success this evening which, for most involved, evokes only marvellous memories.
For me, however, I cannot think back to that glorious 2005-06 season for my amateur club without a cold shiver recollecting my shocking error – embarrassing doesn’t do it justice – that nearly messed the whole thing up for everyone.
I’d played for Oulton – situated between Leeds and Castleford – for around eight or nine seasons, sporadically in the first-team but more regularly as an A team stand-off. At the start of that 2005-06 campaign, we were so short I somehow got called up to play first-team wing, a position, aged 27, completely alien to me.
The coaches had plucked some tall, stringy kid out of the Under-18s, too, Bryan Hall or something like that. He went on to play a few games for Leeds Rhinos and England, I think ….
Anyway, as it happened, we had a great season. It was no surprise really.
Coached by Billy Bowden – the sort of boss players want to run through brick walls for – there was some terrific talent.
His old Hunslet team-mate, the evergreen forward Mick Coyle, arrived after retiring from the professional game and there were other ex-pros, too, like former Dewsbury Rams duo Billy Kershaw and Gavin Wood, Neil Bradbrook and, probably the best player I ever played alongside, Danny Burton who made Adam Cuthbertson look like an off-loading novice.
With Alan ‘Chalky’ White, the sort of elusive half-back who could get through gaps not even water could breach, Steve ‘Beaver’ Jakeman at centre and Carlos Sanchez and Sasch Brook up front, it was certainly a fine vintage.
Anyway, we were cruising along quite nicely towards top spot when my moment of rashness came to the fore.
At home to Wigan St Judes, a side destined for the drop, I went to collect a bouncing kick near my own line under no pressure whatsoever and, inexplicably, just dropped it.
Some opponent picked up to score the easiest try and suddenly we were behind.
For me, this caused mass personal panic as the enormity of what I’d done engulfed me.
Essentially; from the safety of finishing first, a home semi-final and two stabs, if needed, at reaching the Grand Final, I’d left us in this worryingly grey area.
All the permutations started running through my head, the upshot being, if we lost, the defeat could have left us in third and a sudden-death play-off with a side as experienced as Leigh Miners Rangers perhaps.
What if we then lost that? Eight months of graft wasted? All because of my stupid gaffe?
There was still 10 minutes or so left yet it seemed to fly by as time started running out to right this wrong.
Thankfully, Scotty Goodall saved me.
With the last play of the game, he somehow intercepted a Judes pass and raced in to steal us victory. Sheer jubilation. Utter relief. My hero.
Thankfully, some proper wingers returned for the business end and I wasn’t even at Mount Pleasant for the Grand Final win over Thornhill, instead at St Helens covering Bradford Bulls for the Telegraph & Argus, clear of causing any more carnage.
Think I’ll be buying Scotty a beer tonight, though...