SADDLEWORTH RANGERS chairman Shane Wilson has paid tribute to former player Steve Gartland who has died at the age of 45.
The pair had known one another since they were team mates in Rangers’ U11 team and remained lifelong friends.
It has emerged Steve, who played professional Rugby League for Rochdale, Oldham and Swinton as a stand off, had been suffering from depression.
Shane said: “I was unaware Steve had problems. He always had a smile on his face, and I thought he had the world at his feet. That is why it came as such a shock.
“You couldn’t have met a nicer person and he would always stop and have a natter when we met. It is tragic and it is the devastation his passing leaves behind.”
Shane posted on Facebook: “So sorry to hear of the passing of a good friend of mine. Steven Gartland was one of the first faces I saw when I turned up at Saddleworth all those years ago.
“He welcomed me with open arms and we became good friends. My heart goes out to his family at this time and especially Bradley who is turning into be a great man like his father. God bless Steven.”
Shane added from an early age he knew Steve, the son of former Oldham RL coach Brian, a key member of the backroom team at Watersheddings, would become a successful player.
He said: “Steven came from a rugby family and I could see at that early age he was a special player and he was destined to make something from it.
“We later played against each other when he moved to Oldham St Annes and we regularly saw one another.”
Steven, whose elder brother Shaun was also well known in amateur RL circles, used to regularly visit Rangers, especially when his son Bradley, an up-and-coming referee, was officiating at the club.
Shane continued: “Bradley runs the line on a Saturday for open age games and he also referees our junior matches.
“Steven would come up to watch him and we would regularly see him at the club.”
After leaving Rangers, Steven played for Oldham St Annes at a time when they had an exceptional youth team with many of their players turning professional.
Steven was one of them as he signed for Rochdale. He later played 30 first-team games for Oldham in their Super League days. He later joined Swinton Lions before having a second spell with Hornets.
And it is a measure of Steven’s standing in the game that there one minute’s applause in his memory at the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final between Warrington Wolves and Hull FC at Wembley.
It was in the sixth minute, the significance of which was that he wore that number shirt in his playing days.
There was also one minute’s silence at Oldham’s game against Sheffield Eagles at Bower Fold, Stalybridge, on Bank Holiday Monday.