28th annual Rochdale Hornets Ex-Players Association dinner

Date published: 03 March 2020

The 28th annual dinner by the Rochdale Hornets Ex-Players Association was hosted at Rochdale Golf Club on Friday 28 February.

A success once again, 170 former players were in attendance, from clubs such as Rochdale, Leigh, Huddersfield, Oldham, Wigan, Widnes, St Helens, Warrington, Swinton and many more.

Rochdale Hornets were represented by a huge amount of former players, including: Graham Starkey, Bill Sheffield, Mick Crocker, John Hammond, Mike Ratu, Tony Pratt, John Stapleton, Frank Hope, Brett Garside, Sean Hoare, Martin Hall, Alan Hodkinson, Mick Baxter, Norman Short, Mick Henighan, Peter Gartland, Peter Clarke, Steve McGiffen, Shane Tupaea, Gareth Pratt, Neil Cowie, Peter Riley, and Nigel Greenwood, who was ball boy for many years at the athletic grounds.

Master of Ceremonies, Rochdale’s own Malcolm Lord hosted the evening from the top table with his usual comedy and banter amongst the crowd and helped with the fundraising on the night.

The guest chairman for the evening was Mike Nicholas MBE, President of Wales Rugby League and a former Warrington, Wales and Great Britain player. He told stories of great international matches he had been involved in and other games he had played in for both rugby league and rugby union.

“Big Jim Mills” was the next top table guest to speak and he told some amazing stories of his career which included playing for Widnes, Bradford, Salford, Wales and Great Britain. He also played for Australian club North Sydney. The audience were captivated by his tales of his disciplinary record which included an extra-ordinary amount of sending offs during his career.


Rochdale Hornets Ex-Players Association Dinner 2020
Rochdale Hornets Ex-Players Association Dinner 2020


Next to take the stage was England & Great Britain International George Nicholls, who played for St Helen’s and Widnes. He was the first man to win The Man of Steel Award and is a St Helen’s Rugby League Hall of Fame inductee. He told some very interesting stories of his career which included winning the 1972 Rugby League World Cup.

Former Rochdale Hornets player Tony Cooke completed a brilliant top table by having a question and answer session with Malcolm Lord, which proved to be very popular amongst the crowd. Tony played for Hornets, Warrington and Leigh, with which he won the Lancashire Cup and first division championship.

Comedian for the night was John Gillan, who – in addition to his funny stories and jokes – ended by bringing the house down with his surprise singing of ‘Nessun Dorma’ and ‘It’s Time To Say Goodbye’.

Tony Pratt, of the Rochdale Hornets Ex-Players Association, thanked all in attendance for their continued and valued support.

He said: “The Ex-Players Association takes pride in bringing so many players and guests together for this annual event. The fundraising provides us with the opportunity to donate to local junior sports clubs and youth development in Rochdale.”

Mr Pratt also thanked all the top table guests, Four Heatons Caterers for providing the meals and Rochdale Golf Club for 'brilliant facilities and hospitality'.

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