Rugby League mourns death of former Oldham manager Frank Myler

RUGBY League is in mourning following the death of former Oldham RL manager and coach Frank Myler. He died and 81 after a long illness in Widnes, his home town.

A legend of the game, Frank captained both Widnes and Great Britain, starred for St Helens, coached Widnes, Rochdale Hornets, Swinton Lions and Oldham and became one of the most famous names in the history of the sport.

Frank Myler (Pictures courtesy of Oldham RL Heritage Trust)

A World Cup winner in 1960, one of his greatest achievements was in 1970 when he captained Great Britain to an Ashes-winning triumph against Australia, the last GB skipper to lift that particular trophy.

He was revered wherever he played – Widnes, St Helens and Rochdale, as player-coach – and in the time he spent as head coach, manager and general manager at Oldham, the Watersheddings club enjoyed its best years since the glory days of the 1950s.

He arrived with his No 2, Peter Smethurst, a former Oldham player, for the start of the 1981-82 season when Roughyeds were in the second division, having been relegated the previous year.

Myler’s men immediately went back to the first division as second-tier champions, won the Slalom Lager Rose Bowl and reached the semi-final of the John Player Trophy.

Oldham’s progress didn’t go unnoticed at St Helens, who wanted Myler to succeed Kel Coslett as Knowsley Road boss.

Myler chose to stick with Oldham, however, and in the following season ,1982-83, he led Roughyeds’ to eighth place, their best finish since 1961.

Smethurst took the job of Leigh’s head coach and was replaced by Frank Barrow, but when Myler’s achievements at club level earned him the top position of full-time Great Britain coach, Smethurst returned to Watersheddings as temporary boss with Barrow his assistant.

Myler caused a few eyebrows to be raised within the game by naming five of his former Oldham players – Des Foy, Terry Flanagan, Ray Ashton, Mick Worrall and Andy Goodway – in the squad for the 1984 Great Britain tour of Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

It was the first time in the history of the Oldham club that five players from Watersheddings had gone on tour.

Myler was back at the Watersheddings helm in 1984-85 when he spearheaded a fifth-place first division finish, the club’s highest status since the 1950s.

He assembled a squad that finished ninth in the top flight in 1988-86 and reached the Challenge Cup semi-final against Castleford.

Frank Myler (Pictures courtesy of Oldham RL Heritage Trust)

The following season, Myler’s farewell year at Oldham, was as bitter-sweet as they come.

Champions Wigan, with a galaxy of star names, were sent packing from the Challenge Cup, beaten 10-8 on a marvellous night under the Watersheddings floodlights.

Earlier that season, on another magnificent night, the touring Australians were given the fright of their lives by an Oldham side that looked good enough to grace the first division for years to come.

The first division was to be cut from 16 clubs to 14, however, so four were relegated out of 16 and Oldham went down with Featherstone, Barrow and Wakefield.

They finished fourth bottom on the same points as Leeds and only one behind Hull. How cruel was that?

The Myler years were, without doubt, among the best that most modern-day Oldham supporters will ever have experienced.

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