Rugby League: Waddell leads the border raiders
Dave Hadfield meets the veteran GB forward taking up a new challenge
Dave Hadfield was a schoolboy convert to rugby league, the game which, one way or another, has dominated his life ever since. After working for newspapers in Shropshire and Blackpool (where he covered the fortunes of Blackpool Borough) he travelled the world, working mainly in Hong Kong and Sydney. He became The Independent's rugby league man in 1990 and has written five books on the game and broadcast extensively for Sky and the BBC. Dave played his last game at the age of 53 and would have set up a try if anyone could have been bothered supporting his break. When not writing about the sport, he now limits himself to a bit of tick and pass with his local club, the Bolton Mets. Family includes supporters - of varying degrees of dedication - of Salford, Wigan, Sheffield Eagles and St George Illawarra.
Sunday 06 December 1998
His professional career, that began when, on holiday from his home in Stafford, he walked into Blackpool Borough and asked for a trial and continued at Oldham, Leeds and Sheffield, ended last season when he told his coach at Barrow that he had got his substitutions all wrong. "I was going for Jeff Grayshon's record," he said, citing the ultra-veteran who played until he was 46. "But I ran out of clubs."
Professional clubs, perhaps. But, even in his fifth decade, Waddell still lives by the motto "Have boots, will travel". For him, it is a fairly short raid over the border from his home in Carlisle to help out in the land of his birth. Under his guidance, the Border Eagles emerged as the first Scottish Champions this summer - and today will become the first Scottish club to play in the Challenge Cup. It is a considerable achievement, given that the side is drawn from the whole of southern Scotland, never train together and have little grounding in rugby league. "But I think it's a game more suited to Scottish people than rugby union," Waddell said. "A lot of Scots lads are fit and athletic; they're able to tackle and they love running the ball. Put those ingredients together and you've got a game of rugby league."
Well, you have if there is someone there to pull it all together; Waddell has done just that. "He makes a dramatic difference to us," said the club's founder, Paul Scanlon-Wells. "He might be 40, but he would still be capable of doing it in the professional game." Whether that will be enough at the Hillhead Sports Club in Glasgow today against the champions of Cumbria, still a hot-bed of the game at amateur level, is another matter. "We don't hold out any great expectations," Waddell said. "But we won't be shown up. We've got our defence sorted out, which hasn't always been considered my forte. We've got a lot of heart and we'll give them a run for their money."
Waddell does not train these days, keeping his fitness up by playing his 80 minutes with the Eagles, plus a bit of rugby union on the side. His one disappointment is that he was not recalled to the Scottish rugby league side. He believes that he could still do a job at that level. A slightly younger Waddell would be useful at a higher level than that.
Although never as keen watching as playing, he could not help noticing what happened to the Great Britain pack recently against New Zealand. "We lack a few big men," he says. "All the emphasis has been on mobility and they've been trying to do away with the big forwards." There are still one or two lurking north of the border, as Wath Brow will find out this afternoon.
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