Home from home
Fans' favourite Lucas Onyango put friends before finance when opting to sign a new contract with Oldham RL Club, revealed team boss Tony Benson today.
The 29-year-old Kenyan-born winger will be with Roughyeds for his fifth season in 2011. And when asked for his thoughts on club and town he remarked: "It's home from home, man, home from home."
Benson paid tribute to the player's loyalty. He said: "He's sticking with us for less money than he could have got elsewhere. He's very loyal. His heart is here, and he's made a lot of friends at the club.
"I'm excited because I believe we will have two of the best wingers in the competition next season in Lucas and John Gillam. Each is a big part of the team."
Onyango has scored 62 tries in 87 games in his four seasons at Oldham, since arriving from Widnes in 2007. He came to England for the first time with the Kenyan Rugby Union squad that competed in the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester -- and stayed.
His best seasons for Oldham were his first in 2007 (18 tries in 23 games, playing outside Adam Hughes) and his fourth this year when he ran in 19 tries in 28 games.
He was lean and lightning-fast in his early days here. Now, he is bigger, stronger -- and meaner.
"Now I'm older, strength is a bigger part of my game," he said. "I'm doing two weights sessions a day so I can put in big hits and make good ground on kick returns. That's my game now; try-scoring is a bonus."
A mature student, he is in his final year of a three-year degree course on coaching and sports development, studying full-time at Crewe.
He added: "Other clubs were interested, but there were many reasons why I signed for Oldham again. I wanted as little disruption as possible in my final year at university but, more than that, I like playing for Roughyeds and I'm happy here. The fans are brilliant with me. They make me feel like I'm a local lad.
"Another five years and I'll be in for a testimonial. Seriously, if we miss out on promotion again next season I'll be thinking about hanging up my boots.
"I'll be 30 then and losing in a Grand Final is not a good feeling. I don't want to go through it again. As for 2011, we've been arouind long enough at the top end of this division to know what to expect.
"For the first time we'll have a full season at Whitebank and that should make a big difference to the club, the players and the fans."
Onyango is the ninth regular member of last season's first team to agree a new deal behind Jason Boults, Dave Ellison, John Gillam, Martin Roden, Ben Heaton, Danny Whitmore, Chris Clarke and Valu Bentley.
Said Benson: "People say we should kick a lot more 40-20s when attacking down the slope at Whitebank, but it's Lucas's fault that we don't. He makes so much ground on his kick returns that we invariably start sets too far upfield to think about 40-20s.
"He's a great defender; a superb athlete; and the sort of character that every club wants in the dressing room. His decision to stay makes me a very happy man."