What a horrible week.
A period that saw on two out of three days the front page of this newspaper feature the untimely deaths of Jason Ramsden and then Mick Shaw.
Relatively young men in their thirties, both former Halifax players.
Ramsden was a member of the first ever Halifax Academy squad recruited by Colin Dixon in the summer of 1991.
Contemporaries of his in the side were the likes of Mark Perrett, Johnny Moore, Lee Slater and Richard “Sausage” Pearson.
Railway travellers between Halifax and Leeds 20 years ago would have seen teenagers Shaw and Graham Holroyd travelling to Headingley on a daily basis before they both learned to drive or indeed were old enough to do so.
Shaw had had a brief spell as an apprentice at Thrum Hall but opted instead for more of a professional outlook at Leeds who were in the process of turning their squad into a fulltime one. Ironically enough both were reunited at Halifax, this time at the Shay, in 1999.
Holroyd had signed from Headingley during the off season in a blaze of publicity. Shaw arrived in totally different circumstances in the July. By that time the club had reeled into a CVA and Gary Mercer, Shaw’s old colleague at Leeds, was in desperate need of a hooker with Paul Rowley struggling with a mystery toe injury.
Danny Barnes had played a couple of games but the fact that his nickname in the Alliance dressing room was “Danny Bones” gives a clue as his slight physique.
Super League was a massive step up for the Wakefield based number nine who later gave up the professional game to become a firefighter.
Mercer needed a more commanding, experienced presence around the ruck and turned to Shaw who had been frozen out at Leeds by the arrival of Lee Jackson.
Shaw’s first game wasn’t a mundane, run-of-the mill fixture. It was Bradford at home.
A boiling hot summers afternoon, a full house and the kick-off delayed by 30 minutes due to traffic congestion through Northowram and Stump Cross.
The script demanded a try from Shaw and he delivered the goods with a typical close range effort to open the scoring in front of the South Stand to temporarily silence the Bulls fans.
Shaw was a typical example of the new breed of hooker who developed in the 1990’s. Nippy, scampering runners with good hands.
He was not short of spirit either. Leeds didn’t have the best of years in 1996 and Halifax did the “double” over them and scored nearly a hundred points in the two matches.
The final game of the season was at Thrum Hall on the last Sunday in August and Shaw showed his competitiveness in the closing stages.
A scrum on the grandstand side developed into a melee and Shaw, undeterred, swung a couple of punches at the Halifax skipper - and not many people did that to “Rhino”!