Experienced Bloem is new Fax skipper

SOUTH African Jamie Bloem will captain Halifax in 2004.

The veteran utility player, re-signed this winter after a 12-month sabbatical with Huddersfield, picked up the armband from retiring skipper Johnny Lawless at half-time during yesterday's 32-22 Infirmary Cup success over Huddersfield.

Lawless brought the curtain down on a 14-year professional career with a seven-minute cameo in front of a highly-respectable crowd of 2,208, an appearance that ensured he at least finished with a trophy in his hand.

Bloem's elevation to the captaincy underlines the extent to which the player, once as notable for his reputation as one of the game's genuine hot-heads as for his footballing ability, has mellowed in recent seasons.

"It was a bit of a surprise to be asked," admitted Bloem. "I had already agreed to be vice-captain under Johnny and when we knew he was definitely going they asked me to do the job.

"It's a big deal to me because I have been here a long time."

Coach Tony Anderson clearly hopes the responsibility will bring out the best in Bloem, who joined Halifax in 1998 from Widnes.

"Jamie was the obvious choice for me, he's been here for a while, he's well respected around the town and he was the first name that came to my mind," he said.

"He has matured in the last couple of seasons anyway, and now he will be dealing with referees rather than arguing with them."

Bloem, who watched the game from the sidelines, paid fulsome tribute to his predecessor - and made it clear he would be more than ready to relinquish the role should Lawless ever have a change of heart.

"I would rather have Johnny back," he said. "He is one of the best professionals I have ever played with, the hardest player I have ever played against and one of the most committed guys in the game.

"I said to him when he gave me the armband that he can have it back any time he wants."