FIGUREHEAD FOR THE FUTURE

David Clegg Meets With Supporter, Turned Sponsor, Turned Director, Andy Rosler

Those of us who were fortunate enough to have been around at the time, will readily identify with the earliest rugby league memories of new club Director, Andy Rosler, when he recalls the heady days of the seventies, and those wonderful Friday nights at The Willows.

The fabulous atmosphere alongside the scintillating rugby on view were enough in themselves to get anybody hooked, so for an impressionable youngster, it is little wonder that it was the start of a lifetime of sporting pleasure.

“My dad used to take me and my brother, and although it took some time to work out what was going on, I have lasting memories of the likes of Keith Fielding racing down the field for yet another try, and then the thrill of seeing him win the prime TV sports show ‘Superstars’,” Andy recalls.

“Then in 1983 came the launch of a Junior Devils Scheme, whereby, on purchase of a season ticket, you got a free scarf and a bob hat, and I’ve been a season ticket holder ever since.”

Having been bitten by the bug, he could not leave it at that – he really had to have a try at playing, himself.

“They didn’t play rugby league at school, so I joined Eccles Rugby League Club, as it was named then, to join their U14s, just a bit too old to play alongside the likes of Adrian Morley, Ian Watson, and Nathan McAvoy, who were in the U10s at the time,” he wryly reflects.

Starting off at centre, he later moved to become hooker, which was a totally different role from the one into which it it has since developed .

“There was a lot of pressure then to get the ball at the scrum, and there was a whole lot that went on in there to try to gain possession of the ball,” he comments.  “We didn’t really train or practise scrums –  it was always down to the hooker alone.  On the occasions that you lost the ball on your own feed you really weren’t very popular.”

After learning his trade with Eccles, he moved on to ply it with a small number of other clubs, until eventually he got caught out in what turned out to be his final game, by then with Irlam Hornets, under the coaching of former Salford first teamer, Andy Burgess.

“I went on, played the first half, and actually scored try, but then by sixty minutes I was absolutely broken,” he ruefully remembers, “and we had no substitute.  All I could do though was stand on the side and watch, and it took me two weeks to get over it.

“With my professional career progressing I realised, then, that I would have to give it up.  I do have great memories of my time as a player, and still see a lot of the people I came across on match days, now.”

Although his playing career may have come to an end, watching continued to retain his interest, and involvement, in the sport, and he readily and eagerly calls to mind some of the more memorable matches he was there to enjoy, the first and foremost of course being that terrific second round Challenge Cup tie victory over Wigan, in 1996.

“That was an absolutely fantastic game,” he assesses, “and we also beat St Helens in a quarter final of the Regal Trophy around that time too.”

As his professional career continued to accelerate, he chose to, and was able to start putting something back into the club, by becoming one of the regular sponsors.

“I started my own business in 2001, and that first year I took out hospitality at The Willows, and it just grew from there,“ he recounts.  “I ended up doing something every year thereafter.

“Then, about ten years ago I developed some educational software, which was passed on, and used, by the Foundation.”

Simply being associated with a company, which sponsors the club, he feels, has been rewarding in itself.

“You are going to be going to the games anyway, while The Willows always had a certain charm about it,” he explains.  “So I used to enjoy the whole experience of that, not to mention the occasions when we dined in the restaurant prior to the match.

“Afterwards we would stay on and just enjoy all that was going on, into the night.”

Eventually, in 2012, came the moment when we said farewell to The Willows, and made the move to the A J Bell Stadium.

“I was very optimistic about the initial vision,” Andy confides, “but then circumstances, which are well documented, put paid to the initial business plan”

“After a number of years here, now, I have got to the stage where I feel quite settled after the move.  The Willows certainly had its limitations, particularly in respect of being female friendly, and we now seem to have considerably more families attending games, here.

“People who hire boxes maintain that the standard of these are up among the best, while the location we have, together with the car parking space available, will, once fully developed, be far more accessible.”

With six seasons now behind us, we have got to the stage where memories are being made out on the field, every season,and recalled amongst ourselves, starting with our opening fixture against Castleford, in the snow and ice.

“There was also the occasion, that same season, when we were twenty points down against Catalans, and turned it around to win,” Andy reminisces.  “Last season, we had real quality games throughout the whole season, most impressive of all being the early season win over Castleford.

“Over the years, like many others I have experienced every emotion between the lowest depths of disappointment as in that semi-final defeat by Sheffield Eagles at Headingley, and the highest of highs following the drop goal in the Million Pound Game.

“In the last analysis, though, it’s not about one-off events, but rather about bit by bit re-engaging with the old community and of course the significant fan-base we now have on our doorstep.”

As last season came towards its close, of course, the moves to transfer ownership to the new board, which included Andy, began to take place.

“It wasn’t so much that I put myself forward as of being approached by Marwan to be involved,” Andy clarifies.  “With my knowledge of the financial position of the club, the previous company, and my wide-ranging involvement over a period of time, there was a degree of inevitability that he would want me to be involved.

“For my part, I felt that if someone with a strong passion for the club were not involved, then things would not be looking very good.   I believed that we have such great potential geographically and commercially, that I wanted to be a part of it, and what really spurred me on was the number of people who showed a genuine desire to help.  We now have the people in place who are capable of delivering what is needed.”

Although part of a board of four members, Andy, it is, who has been the figurehead and spokesperson for them, and whom we have all come to recognise.

“That’s probably because I have my own business, and so I can allow myself to spend more time on the day to day involvement with the club, which is why I spent three or four months behind the scenes gaining further awareness of the issues.  The reaction of the fans has been extremely positive having recognised us as a team of genuine, down-to-earth people, who have the future of the club at heart.”

The demands and challenges of the role have certainly been most significant, with, among other things, the media requiring considerable amounts of his time for interviews.

“It was quite frustrating that we were not able to take over in November, as had been planned, “he divulges, “because we could have had a really good run at it pre-season, so to a certain extent we have been on the back foot.

“There are lots of initiatives which we had planned but were unable to implement, and now we are in a bit of whirlwind of activity.  We are having to do everything now at great speed, and that could trigger a few mistakes, but the willingness and positivity from the staff is evident to us all, and the things we have done already in respect of relationships, are genuine, and not just one-off gestures.

“That bond with the community is only going to get stronger, and there are going to be further initiatives and more people announced over the next few weeks.”