Dewsbury Rams has always tried to pride itself on being a family club, and there are people who work within the Rams who have been here a long time.
One such person is kit man Chris Hill who has put in over 36 years to the Rams and completed over 1000 games. That includes first team fixtures, reserve fixtures, under 19 games and many, many friendlies and cup matches.
Chilly started his journey at the Rams in the late 1970’s when he used to help his dad (The then club kit man) in his match day duties. As Sam Hill retired Chilly took more and more of the kit man responsibilities on and started his first proper full season in 1980.
As understudy turned boss, the role of son and dad in kit man duties swapped as Chilly’s dad became the second kit man. Chilly has done many hours in his boot room looking after all the players training kit, match day kit, players boots and all other essential items such as looking after training gear.
Chilly has seen the ups and downs at Dewsbury, and also been kit man for the club at two different grounds, Old Crown Flatt and the Tetley’s Stadium.
One such year Chilly will not forget is the year of 2000 when Dewsbury won the Northern Ford Premiership, the Grand Final, and the Trans-Pennine Trophy. Since then the Rams have gone down to the depths of League One and risen to the Championship once more.
On the partnership with his dad, Chilly commented: “My dad did the kit and I helped him and then when he got older I took over, I have been involved with doing the kit since the age of 12 so I have a lot of experience.
“My dad took me up to the old ground to watch the team train and so it all started from there really. I got into rugby and I think it’s a great sport and this is a great club to be involved with.
“The first season was a learning curve in doing the job and it didn’t really sink in during the first season to be honest. The older I got the more I got involved and the more I learnt about doing the role.
“At the old ground my dad did bits and bats for me, as the kit man became my full time job, I used to put the shirts in an old bath and scrub them clean, we didn’t have all the nice washing machines that you do now. I also used to take the kit home and wash it there and hang it out on the lines and iron it, my mum got involved too.”
Chilly remembers one of the worst times in the club history as the old stadium was destroyed in a devastating fire.
On that memory he said: “One of the worst times was when the fire happened, I remember when the fire happened at the old ground it was devastating. My dad had just locked the ground up and was going home, I had just come home from my other job at the time, my mum said there is a fire at the club. I couldn’t believe it, luckily my dad wasn’t in the building at the time, although its scary to think what may have happened if he was five minutes late.
“It was very upsetting for everyone at the club, we then went to Batley to play for a few years and now have been at this ground for the last 25 years.”
Although that was one of the worst times in the club history, Chilly also remembers the good times too and reminisces about them.
On the good times, he said: “We’ve had a lot of good times at the club and the year 2000 was great, I went to both finals, it was disappointing to lose the first one. However to get to the second final was brilliant and we won at Bury against Leigh. We had a great team then with having good times, but since then rugby has changed a lot.
“There was no training gear at the old ground but since moving here to this stadium I have taken on more and more things in my room such as training tops, bibs, balls, everything you could think of it’s in my room.”
When asked which has been his favourite kit over the last 36 years, Chilly pondered and then commented: “One of my favourite tops was the one where we played in a V style shirt, that was a nice kit. The worst kit we have had is anything with white as it’s horrible to get clean when they’ve played in it.”
One of the best things about the role is the other people you meet and Chilly admits that he has made some good friends along the way.
He added: “I have been to loads of stadiums over the 36 years, and met some good people along the way not just in this club but at other clubs too. Such as the two lads at Leigh who do the kit or Jonathan up at Batley, he’s been doing it probably the longest. I know pretty much everyone who does the kit at different clubs and I have made some good friends over the last 36 years.”
When looking back over his time as kit man, Chilly reflects on one such story involving his understudy Shaun Hodkin. He chuckled away whilst telling the story and said.
“One funny story I have from doing the kit is when I went on holiday for a week, I left everything ready for my understudy to take on. I came back a week later and all the lads were taking the mick out of him, saying when Chilly comes back he’ll not be pleased. I walked into the room and all the socks had gone pink poor lad, we sorted it in the end though and he’s a good lad.
“I have had some laughs with him, he’s a good lad and whilst I didn’t set him on, I asked for some help, he came on board and started helping me which is great.”
Over the years Chilly has seen plenty of head coaches, and players come an go but one constant has been him. Whilst he admits he’s normally a glass half empty kind of guy, all he ever wants is to see the Rams win on a Sunday afternoon.
He said: “Sometimes you get fed up when you don’t win the games on a Sunday, I know we can’t win every week but it’s disappointing when you lose because you know how hard everyone has worked all week to get the games on. It’s great when we win and you can see how much it means to everyone, not just the fans but people within the club, the players, coaching staff but also those that work in the offices or the volunteers who help the club on match days. It means a lot when we win and it makes the whole club a happy place to be.
“Overall though I have enjoyed the job, I have seen some good times and some bad times, what I will say though is that it does matter and I am proud to have been the kit man for so long for this club.”