VICTORY on Saturday would mark a fitting climax to the career of one of Huddersfield Rugby Union club’s true servants.
Huddersfield’s favourite adopted Kiwi, Hamish Pratt, is calling time on his playing career in the play-off game against Luctonians.
After eight seasons at the club, as a player, captain, coach, development officer and then commercial/general manager, the 34-year-old has decided to hang up his boots; “I’d throw them in the river, if it wasn’t for the fact I need them for my job!” said the likeable New Zealander.
Now working as a RFU community and development officer but still based in Huddersfield, Pratt is next season set to take on the role of first-team coach with Ilkley – but strictly on the sidelines!
“I will still be registered as a player with Huddersfield, and although I will never say never, to all intents and purposes I’ve decided to call time on my playing career.
“I’ve had a fantastic time at Huddersfield, who will always be my club, and I can’t thank them and some of the tremendous people down there, enough.
“I still can’t believe I only came over to England for one year, for a bit of off-season rugby, and I’m still here.
“I shall always be thankful for what Huddersfield have provided for me. They have given me a job, a new life, a family – and a mortgage!
“I’ve seen so many changes since I arrived in 2000.
“I took over the development job from Lafaele Fillipo, was made captain for a spell, and won the first of two play-off promotion matches when we beat Vale of Lune in 2001-02 in the North II play-offs, and we also suffered a relegation year.
“Mike Lumley then brought in Mark Sowerby, Neil Summers and Andy Metcalfe from Wakefield and in 2004-05 we went back up again with another play-off win, this time against Stockport. And the changes in playing personnel over the last eight years has been incredible.”
Pratt and his wife Claire moved to live in Cullingworth, near Keighley recently, and the move – along with the arrival of their son Jacob – was a partial reason for his decision to take on the one-year post coaching Ilkley.
“I was approached by the chairman, and I liked the look of the club. They are very well organised, have a development officer in place, and their facilities are very good.
“I did have a few options to weigh up. But realising I had a really bad shoulder injury at the start of the year, and obviously I’m not as young as I was, and now have a family to consider.
“I thought the role with Ilkley would be a great personal development move for me.
“However, at the end of the day, I’m a Huddersfield player and I want people to know that.”
As well as being responsible for recruiting several excellent players from the University of Huddersfield, where he was formerly the coach (Chris Johnson and the Paxman brothers Lee and Ben being just three), Pratt has also been heavily involved in the development of Huddersfield’s own young talent, one of the rewards being the emergence of those players now coming through into the senior squads.
“It’s given me great enjoyment seeing the minis and juniors coming through, and I’ve really enjoyed my time at Lockwood Park.
“I would also like to thank all the support I’ve had down the years from senior members at the club.
“I owe a lot to Huddersfield, and if Mark (Sowerby) should happen to give me a ring next season and say they are particularly short of numbers for one game, you never know!
“I know Halifax are coming down into National III North, and if we win on Saturday, I could be very tempted to come back and have another bash at them. I’ve had some good tussles with them in the past and I wouldn’t mind another go!”