Rigby swaps Swinton for Oldham

A third Oldham RL new boy, Neil Rigby, has signed for Roughyeds in order to challenge himself in new surroundings.

After five years at St Helens and four at Swinton Lions, the 25-year-old second-row forward turned down an opportunity to go up with Swinton next year and play in the Co-operative Championship.

“I was in their plans,” he said, “but I was desperate for a change of scenery.

“I was in a comfort zone — comfortable in my surroundings and breezing along.

“Moving to Oldham, new club, new coach, new team mates, will give me the kick up the backside I need.”

Rigby, reared on rugby in his home town of St Helens, forms a trio of Roughyeds’ new recruits for 2012 with prop Danny Heaton (30) and second-row man Paul Smith (34), who played in the Championship with Halifax last season.

This latest Oldham capture signed for Saints from amateurs Blackbrook when he was 16 and in the next few years passed through the Knowsley Road academy system alongside Gareth Langley and Craig Littler, who were later to join the Roughyeds.

He was named Lions’ man-of-steel in his first year at Swinton and in the following season both supporters and fellow players voted him their player of the year.

His 2011 campaign started well, but was later spoiled by injury.

“I’m fully fit now though and itching to get going again,” he said.

Other clubs were courting him, including Rochdale, but Rigby said so many players had spoken highly to him about Oldham, including Langley, Littler, Bruce Johnson, John Clough, Liam Gilchrist and Carl Forber, that his move to Whitebank was virtually nailed-on before he even spoke to chairman Chris Hamilton and coach Tony Benson.

Added Rigby: “Chris and Tony clinched it for me. I neither needed nor wanted to speak to any other club after that.

“I know Oldham is the club for me and I know 2012 is going to be a good year.

“To be honest I fancied the move a year ago, but nothing materialised.”

A family man with two small children, Rigby works full time in St Helens with young people who have been excluded from school — a similar job to that done by his new Roughyeds team mate, John Clough.

Oldham team boss Benson said he was delighted to have further strengthened his forwards with a player who “wants to come for the right reasons.”

“He’s tailor-made for the way we play,” said Benson. “He’s strong, pacy, good in defence. He has a good pass and he runs good lines.

“Furthermore, he played in a very good Swinton team. He will be a big addition to the squad.”

The squad is taking shape now with the signing of 18 players announced so far, and more expected over the course of the next few days.

Roughyeds will release details of 2012 match-day and season-ticket prices tomorrow.

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