OLDHAM’S part-timers are anxious to check the Warrington Wolves line-up . . . in the hope that they’ll be going head to head with some of the best players in the world.
“What a fabulous experience it will be for all of us if they send out a lot of their stars,” said Roughyeds skipper Lewis Palfrey, ahead of the sixth round Ladbrokes Challenge Cup tie against the Super League leaders at a packed Bower Fold.
While Wolves boss Tony Smith’s calls for less rugby and fewer demands on the sport’s top players are well documented, Warrington are traditionally renowned for going the extra mile in the Challenge Cup.
Their record in recent years is proof. You don’t go to three finals and another three semi-finals in the space of seven years (plus a quarter-final in the odd year out) if you regard the competition as a necessary distraction from Super League and its end-of-season gala night at the Theatre of Dreams.
How the Aussie boss will handle his selection for this one is difficult to gauge, but the Oldham lads would love to line up against the likes of Matty Russell, Kevin Penny, Kurt Gidley, Stefan Ratchford, Chris Hill, Ashton Sims, Ben Currie and Ben Westwood.
Said Palfrey: “The dressing room is buzzing with talk of the Wolves. Bower Fold will be a lot fuller than usual and there will be a great atmosphere.
“We want to see big names on the Warrington team sheet, but whoever is in front of us we’ll go out and do our best, as we always do.
“We’re in a pretty good run of form — four wins from five — and we learned a lot at Hull KR in the last round.
“We knew they were in a bit of a lull. Sometimes, when teams are on a downer, they forget how to win, but that obviously won’t be the case with Warrington and that’s one massive difference to the challenge we faced in the last round and the one we will face tomorrow.
“I would love to play against Gidley, who has had a brilliant career in Australia. It shows no sign of ebbing to a close here. He’s a class act.
“Whatever side they put out it will strongly represent the best team in the country on current form and one of top clubs in either hemisphere.
“We’ve got a pile of injuries, but we’ve been unlucky all season in that respect and we’ve got used to playing when down to our last 17. It was like that at Hull KR. We usually take the field these days with somebody or other carrying knocks.
“We seem to be at our best when our backs are against the wall.
“I’m in my fourth season at the club and its been like that since the day I first walked through the door. It’s when people question us that we close ranks and get the bit between our teeth. A lot of that is down to Scott (head coach Naylor). That’s how he is.
“Hopefully, that will be the case again on Saturday.
“Some people might think we could have done without the cup run in view of how important it is that we consolidate in the Championship in our first season up, but that’s certainly not the view in the dressing room.
“It’s put us in the spotlight from the publicity point of view — that’s good for the club — and its given the players a lot of confidence and self-belief.
“Also, it means we are playing every week and while there’s an argument that the odd Sunday off can be a time to recharge batteries there’s also a point of view that the last thing you want is a break when things are going well and you’re on a roll.
“You don’t want to lose the momentum. That’s my view anyway.
“Finally, a few words about our fans. We’d like more of them, but the ones we have are absolutely brilliant. They’ll be our 18th man against the Wolves and, whatever the result or the score, we’ll do our utmost to give them something to shout about.”