A CLEARER picture of Oldham RL Club’s overall injury situation emerged today with good news on Richard Lepori and Jack Spencer and bad news surrounding Tom Ashton, Craig Briscoe and Jamel Chisholm.
Roughyeds have suffered more serious injuries in the first half of this Championship campaign than in three League One seasons with Scott Naylor in charge — a direct result perhaps of the greater physicality and increased intensity at the higher level.
Full-back Lepori, an Italian international, damaged a shoulder in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup tie against Warrington Wolves and hasn’t played since, missing Championship games against Leigh Centurions, Halifax and Swinton Lions, the Roughyeds’ fourth defeat in a row.
Their last win was a 16-14 triumph against Featherstone Rovers at Bower Fold on May 1, the game in which prop-forward Spencer broke a bone in his hand.
The injury jinx reached crisis point on May Day when Spencer became the latest victim, resulting in Naylor having to field a last-man-standing line-up against Warrington in the cup six days later.
Lepori’s shoulder let him down in that game — hardly surprising considering his bravery on the ball and the number of massive hits he took from the Wolves’ big forwards —- and a fortnight later at Halifax winger Chisholm joined the ever-growing casualty list when he severely dislocated a finger, snapped the tendons and broke the knuckle.
It is now established that he will need an operation and, like Ashton, will face a long lay-off.
Ashton’s bizarre bad luck sets him apart from the others in that his latest setback — a recurrence of knee trouble — happened while he was training hard to regain general fitness after three months out following surgery to remove a burst appendix and to get rid of the accompanying infection.
It was thought he might be available to make his comeback against Swinton, but while preparing for the Summer Bash game he again damaged the knee on which he had surgery last year after falling awkwardly in only his second Oldham game down in South Wales.
His fellow centre Jon Ford, who has already been out since early season with a knee injury, was today due to undergo an innovative procedure in Cheadle in which the knee will be injected with Ford’s own blood in the belief that it will speed the healing process.
Said club chairman Chris Hamilton: “We’ve had loads of bad luck, but we’re not on our own. A lot of clubs are having similar problems with injuries.
“Fortunately, the latest news we have on Richard Lepori, since he had a scan, is positive. It would appear the injury is not as serious as we feared and he might be back in two to three weeks.
“Jack Spencer is looking to target his comeback for about the same time, but the prognosis on each of the other lads is not as good.
“We’ll have to wait and see how Jon Ford’s knee reacts to the special injection, bit it looks like Tom Ashton, Craig Briscoe and Jamel Chisholm will be out for a long time.
“Craig, who severely damaged a knee at Barrow in pre-season, was made up when he was cleared to resume full training a couple of weeks back, but things haven’t gone well for him and it’s looking as though he’s back to square one.”
Currrently, all four of this year’s close-season signings (Chisholm, Spencer, Briscoe and Danny Grimshaw) are on the casualty list, although Grimshaw is expected to resume training tonight after groin trouble and hopefully prove his fitness in time for Sunday’s game at Batley Bulldogs.