ONE small step, perhaps, but one Giants leap. For someone who would toss themselves into new ventures quite fearlessly, I was more than a little nervous leaving Bradford for Huddersfield.
Twelve miles separate the two clubs but it might as well have been 12,000 miles.
As a professional rugby player, all I had really known was Bradford. From my arrival there in 1994, the only people left were chairman Chris Caisley and Freddie Robinson, the legendary kit man.
Huddersfield didn’t have a Freddie Robinson to wash and dry your training gear and polish your boots. You cleaned your own kit.
Mind you, I had seen the culture difference at Bradford in respect of how Freddie was treated by a new generation of players. When you came in from training, you put dirty kit into different baskets for Freddie to sort.
It rightly hacked him off that some of the younger players would scatter their kit everywhere and leave it for him to pick up. People like Freddie are the lifeblood of a club and their passion, commitment and endeavour cannot be under-estimated.
He walked into the dressing room at Odsal as Brian Smith was launching into us one time before a training session. Everyone turned to look at Freddie, who deliberately stared up at the light and blew it out. The room went pitch black. Even Smithy had to laugh. Freddie broke the tension that day and we had an awesome session.
At Bradford we never did anything before 10am, but at Huddersfield we began team run throughs at 8am.
For the lads coming across the Pennines, it was a crack-of-dawn start.
I was used to an environment inhabited by world class players, but when I met Jon Sharp, the head coach, I was impressed more with his and the club’s approach than the actual team itself.
Huddersfield had an up and coming side and Jon had specific plans for me.
“This is how I see you, in the halves controlling us with Brad Drew and Chris Thorman,” Jon said, in a language that I had not heard for a long time.
“There are areas of your game Robbie where I believe that you can improve. You never change the tempo or style of your running. Teams know the footwork you’re going to do on them. What I want to develop are your ball-playing skills.”
What made the transition to Huddersfield easier for me was the sense of me being reinvented as a player.
I worked a lot with Kieron Purtill, Jon’s assistant, who was a half back himself. Playing at hooker, I had grown used to going at a million miles an hour and jumping out of the line while half my team-mates were still winding up.
Brian Noble’s instruction to me was to run or pass, don’t do both. Jon and Kieron’s philosophy was: “We want you to run, pass and add elements to your game.”
An old dog being taught some new tricks made joining Huddersfield a no-brainer. For all the trepidation I felt leaving Bradford, it was one of the best moves I made.
The silverware was not really there any more but it was more about what was right for me at the time – my beloved food for my soul.