LOCAL RUGBY has been saddened to hear of the sudden death of Ray Clark at the age of 72.
The former Oldham loose-forward, who also had a lengthy association with Saddleworth Rangers, was taken ill at his his home in Moorside early on Monday morning and died a few hours later in hospital.
A larger-than-life character, he was well known as an active member of various strands of the local rugby league community.
Ray was an active and passionate worker for the Oldham Past Players’ Association and was closely associated with the Oldham Amateur League as well as with various member clubs, in particular Rangers and Oldham St Anne’s.
He signed for Oldham from Warrington during the 1968/69 season in an exchange deal that took the Watersheddings loose forward and vice-captain Arthur Hughes to Wilderspool.
Ray played 95 matches in the Oldham first team, scoring 19 tries, and in 1971 he was selected at loose forward for Lancashire against Yorkshire in a county championship game at Leigh. Lancashire lost 42-22, Ray scoring one of Lancashire’s four tries.
Ray’s team mates in his four years at Watersheddings included Martin Murphy, Phil Larder, Mike Elliott, Wilf Briggs, Tommy Canning, Bob Irving, Ken Wilson, Jim Crellin, Kevin Taylor and Joe Collins.
In June, 1972 he was transferred to Huddersfield for a £3,750 fee and when his playing days were over he coached at Swinton, Rochdale Hornets, Leigh and Mansfield Marksman as well as at several local amateur clubs.
Arguably, his highest honour was being selected as a member of the coaching team on the BARLA under-19s tour of New Zealand in 1983, which included an up-and-coming Mike Ford.
One of Ray’s claims to fame was that after substitutes were introduced in Rugby League, he was the first person to go on to the pitch as a sub in a live televised match.
His wife Thelma is equally well-known in local rugby league circles, having shared his passion for the game for more than 50 years.
Rangers described the “great sadness” of everybody at the club at hearing of Ray’s death.
The post on Facebook referred to Ray as a “big character at Shaw Hall Bank Road over many years” as a groundsman and more recently looking after the car park from the cabin.
Rangers’ Chairman Shane Wilson wrote: “We used to mark out the pitch together while we put the world to rights. He was one of the characters of the game and it’s a sad loss. Everyone at Rangers passes on their thoughts to the family.”
A minute’s silence was held in memory of Ray at this week’s committee meeting.
Ray’s son Jason played for St Annes and Swinton. His grandson Anthony Morrison is currently a member of Rangers’ first team as three generations of the family were steeped in RL.