150 not out for Joe

Joe Burke Dewsbury Rams (46) Oldham RL (10) Tetleys Stadium Dewsbury Joe lands on his back but rolls over to score a try for Oldham
JOE Burke dismisses the significance of his 150th career appearance against Bradford Bulls at The Provident Stadium (Odsal) on Sunday.

Having played previously for South Wales Scorpions, North Wales Crusaders, Barrow Raiders and Wales (seven caps), the 26-year-old prop’s 15 games so far for Oldham this season have put him one game shy of the career milestone.

“I didn’t know that,” said Newport-born Burke, who took a few weeks to settle in with the Roughyeds, but is now showing signs of the form that made him a Crusaders ever-present last year.

He added: “Players don’t focus on career milestones, and things like that; it’s far more important that we focus on how we play against a very good Bradford side.

“It’s going to be tough, but all games are tough in this division. Winning the last three games has put a spring into everybody’s step. We are all enjoying ourselves and as individuals and as a team we are raising our games to compete at Championship level.

“Not many teams win at Bradford, but our team spirit and camaraderie is terrific and we’ll be giving it our best shot.

“They won well at Bower Fold (48-4), but we’ve shown a lot of grit and determination in our last three games and there’s no reason to believe it should be any different on Sunday.

“There were sections of the game against Swinton last week when we didn’t play well, but the way we held on for the final 15 minutes or so when they threw everything at us was exceptionally good.

“It’s tough to defend for long periods against a team like Swinton, especially when you’re frightened of conceding a penalty and gifting them the chance of a draw.

“But we got there in the end and I think that says a lot about our resolve and our determination.”

The Welshman is playing with more confidence now than at any other time since his arrival at the club in early season, and that’s just as well, given that unlucky Jack Spencer has spent much of the season on the casualty list.

Jack Blagbrough’s arrival on loan from Sheffield will provide more front-row firepower and there’s no doubt that Phil Joy, Burke, Blagbrough, Michael Ward and, possibly dual-reg youngster Tyler Dickinson will have a big say in anything Oldham achieve from their last nine games.

They face a severe challenge at Bradford, where they were beaten 60-6 in the Challenge Cup in April, 2014.

Naylor still has a soft spot for his former club where he won every trophy on offer as a tough-tackling centre in a team of stars.

Talking of Oldham’s first season at Championship level, he told the Telegraph and Argus: “We are good enough to stay up. It’s been a long, hard struggle but if a couple of close games had gone our way we would be sitting comfortably in mid-table.

“I’m confident we’ll stay up because of what I see in the lads when we’re on the training field together. They have it in them to beat anybody.

“It’s nice to be at a club that’s improved year on year and reached the Championship with a good chance to stay there. Most clubs who get promoted (from League One) don’t stay up.

“The challenge for us on Sunday is a huge one, but that’s why we wanted to get promotion.

“Hopefully, there will come a time when the novelty of going to Odsal will wear off and Oldham’s expectations will increase.”

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