RUGBY League is in mourning following the death of former Oldham RL manager and coach Frank Myler, aged 81. He died after a long illness in Widnes, his hometown.

The condolences of chairman Chris Hamilton and all at the Oldham club have been extended to the Myler family.

A legend of the game, Frank captained both Widnes and Great Britain; starred for St Helens; coached Widnes, Rochdale Hornets, Swinton Lions and Oldham and became one of the most famous names in the history of the sport.

A World Cup winner in 1960, one of his greatest achievements was in 1970 when he captained Great Britain to an Ashes-winning triumph against Australia – the last GB skipper to lift that particular trophy.

He was revered wherever he played – Widnes, St Helens and Rochdale, as player-coach – and in the time he spent as head coach, manager and general manager at Oldham, the Watersheddings club enjoyed its best years since the glory days of the 1950s.

He arrived with his No 2, Peter Smethurst, a former Oldham player, for the start of the 1981-82 season when Roughyeds were in the Second Division, having been relegated the previous year.

His early signings were second-row forward David Nicholson from Swinton, utility back Alan Taylor from Widnes, hooker Alan McCurrie, a £35,000 buy from Wakefield Trinity and veteran prop Brian Hogan from Widnes for £18,000.

Myler's men immediately went back to the First Division as second-tier champions, won the Slalom Lager Rose Bowl and reached the semi-final of the John Player Trophy.

Oldham's progress didn't go unnoticed at St Helens, who wanted Myler to succeed Kel Coslett as Knowsley Road boss.

Frank chose to stick with Oldham, however, and in the following season, 1982-83, he led Roughyeds to their best finish since 1961.

Signings that year included Green Vigo, Des Foy, Mick Morgan and Wally Jones and with talented teenagers like Ray Ashton, Paddy Kirwan, Terry Flanagan, Andy Goodway and Mick Worrall coming to the fore, Myler guided Oldham to eighth place in the First Division.

Smethurst took the job of Leigh's head coach and was replaced by Frank Barrow, but when Myler's achievements at club level earned him the top position of full-time Great Britain coach, Peter 'the butcher' (Smethurst) returned to Watersheddings as temporary boss with Frank Barrow as his assistant.

Season 1983-4 was a traumatic few months for Oldham who clearly missed the 'real' boss, Myler, and lost Smethurst, who quit in January, 1984 after a poor run of results.

Barrow, his successor, lasted six days and one game.

Brian Gartland, colts' coach and the man mainly responsible for hand-picking and developing Ashton, Kirwan, Worrall, Flanagan and Goodway, not to mention many other youngsters, was elevated to first-team boss for the remainder of the season.

Despite the turbulence, Gartland guided Roughyeds to a 10th-placed finish while Myler caused a few eyebrows to be raised within the game by naming five of his former Oldham players – Foy, Flanagan, Ashton, Worrall and Goodway – in the squad for the 1984 Great Britain tour of Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

It was the first time in the history of the Oldham club that five players from Watersheddings had gone on tour.

Myler was back at the Watersheddings helm in 1984-5 when he spearheaded a fifth-place First Division finish – the club's highest status since the 1950s.

Myler's captures that year included Aussies Paul Taylor and Chris Phelan from Parramatta; Martin Foy from Wigan; and David Hobbs from Featherstone (£40,000).

Despite transfer demands from Flanagan, Ashton and Goodway, who were transfer-listed at £45,000, £45,000 and £100,000 respectively, Roughyeds were still flying high.

In the summer of '85, classy stand-off David Topliss arrived and the scene was set for another big year.

From Down Under, came the Liddiard boys, Mal Graham and Gary Warnecke as Myler assembled a squad that finished ninth in the top flight and reached the Challenge Cup semi-final against Castleford on a never-to-be-forgotten day at Central Park, Wigan.

It wouldn't be Oldham if there wasn't a drama and Myler had no hesitation in making 16-year-old Glen Liddiard the youngest-ever Challenge Cup semi-finalist when naming him at outside-half.

A finely-balanced semi swung Castleford's way when one of the Beardmore twins was awarded a try when he touched down with one foot over the dead-ball line.

The following season – Myler's farewell year at Oldham – was as bitter-sweet as they come.

Champions Wigan, with a galaxy of star names, were sent packing from the Challenge Cup, beaten 10-8 on a marvellous night under the Watersheddings floodlights, which included that famous try by Kirwan.

Earlier that season, on another magnificent night, the touring Australians were given the fright of their lives by an Oldham side that looked good enough to grace the First Division for years to come.

The First Division was to be cut from 16 clubs to 14, however, so four were relegated out of 16 and Oldham went down with Featherstone, Barrow and Wakefield having finished fourth off bottom on the same points as Leeds and only one behind Hull.

The Myler years were, without doubt, among the best that most modern-day Oldham supporters will ever have experienced.