ADAM Neal, Oldham’s promotion-year pack leader, is back at the club where his peers voted him their top player in 2015.
The 26-year-old front-for forward, a full-time pro at Sheffield Eagles last season, becomes the Roughyeds’ fifth new signing behind Scott Leatherbarrow, Ben Davies, Nathan Chappell and David Hewitt.
He’s back ‘home’ on a two-year contract in a move that coach Scott Naylor regards as key to the type of squad he is building for the Roughyeds’ second season in a KP Championship division that will be even tougher than the last one.
Describing Neal as a “quality prop with unbelievable fitness”, Naylor said his capture was a clear indication that the club was heading in the right direction and making steady progress on and off the field.
He added: “When players of Adam’s quality want to come back to us it says a lot about what we are doing and where we are going.
“He only left us in the first place in pursuit of a full-time deal at Sheffield, and now it’s great to have him back.
“He’s tough, strong, quick, with a good technique. And there is absolutely no doubt that he will help to make our pack extremely strong.
“The squad is coming together nicely and hopefully we haven’t finished yet.”
Neal played in 24 of Oldham’s 28 games in a memorable League 1 promotion campaign of 2015, used as a starting prop in all 24.
The last of his three tries in the Roughyeds jersey was a crucial one in the 31-20 Promotion Final triumph against Keighley Cougars at Whitebank when Naylor’s men clinched their elevation to tier two.
Sheffield boss Mark Aston, who watched Oldham play several times that season, subsequently took Neal and his Oldham team mate George Tyson to south Yorkshire on full-time agreements.
Neal went on a two-year deal, but found it difficult to settle, mainly because of the amount of travelling from his home near Worsley and his wish to retain his business as a personal trainer.
Said Neal: “I didn’t do personal training for three months but I missed it a lot and daily travelling to Sheffield and back got me down. I wasn’t at my best on the field. It was a move that, with hindsight, didn’t suit my lifestyle.
“I talked to Mark (Aston) and he understood what I was saying. He didn’t want me to go and I had another year on my contract, but he didn’t want to stand in my way if I wanted to leave.
“He’s a top bloke. It’s been a tough year at Sheffield for reasons that have been well documented and I firmly believe that if it wasn’t for him a few of the lads would have left the game altogether.
“I left him with his best wishes for the future and that’s something I will always appreciate.
“A few clubs were interested in what I was going to do, but going back to Oldham was always a top option because I know the club so well.
“I know how Scott and ‘Spanner’ work, obviously, and Pete Carey, who wasn’t there in 2015, coached me as a young lad at Salford.
“It’s a great environment at Oldham and I’m excited about going back. The squad they are putting together looks very good and I’m looking forward to being part of it.
“I’ll be able to split my time between rugby and my business interests, as I did in 2015, and it will feel good to meet up with all the lads again when we report for pre-season training next month.”