NEW arrivals Dave Hewitt and Jack Blagbrough trained with Oldham last night and go straight into the selection mix for Sunday’s derby clash with Swinton Lions at Bower Fold (3pm).
With so much riding on the ten games left — three in the Championship and seven in the Shield — Scott Naylor says Roughyeds will be better equipped to stay out of relegation trouble after signing Hewitt and Blagbrough from Sheffield Eagles and extending Lewis Foster’s loan agreement with Leigh Centurions.
Half-back Hewitt (20) and prop-forward Blagbrough (22), full-time professionals at Sheffield, have come on loan to the end of the season.
Joining hooker Foster (22) and Castleford Tigers centre Kieran Gill (20), they take to four the number of young full-timers who are currently on loan at Oldham, each with two objectives — to bolster the Roughyeds squad and to advance their careers at Championship level under the tutelage of Naylor and his assistants Lee Spencer and Peter Carey.
Said Naylor: “Our squad isn’t the biggest. We needed more bodies, not just anybody, but keen young lads who give us fresh faces, options, choices, a bigger squad to choose from and enough players to use fresh players in different games.
“Jack Spencer is having a scan on his shoulder. We don’t know how long he’ll be out. We needed another middle-unit player and that’s where Jack Blagbrough comes in. He works hard, he has a decent engine and he is keen to make his mark.
“We saw Dave Hewitt’s quality when he was with us on loan from St Helens last year. He hasn’t been getting much of a show at Sheffield, but he will be good for us and he fits in easily because he’s been here before; he knows the other boys; and he knows our systems.
“As for Lewis Foster, I’m delighted we’ve been able to keep hold of him. He plays with his head up and he goes forward. He plays a little bit off the cuff at times, but I like that.
“He’s good defensively; offensively, he adds a lot to us and it’s good that he can continue to be part of our push to finish as high up as we possibly can.”
Sheffield boss Mark Aston was happy to place Hewitt and Blagbrough in Oldham’s care even though the clubs are relegation rivals, each on 12 points and just outside the bottom two.
He said: “It will be good for the players, who need game time, and it will benefit both clubs. We have a good relationship with Oldham and I’d like to thank Chris Hamilton for helping to finalise the two deals.”
Hewitt, who scored five tries in six appearances for Oldham last year, said: “I enjoyed my time at the club and I’m looking forward to playing for Roughyeds again.
“It’s a privilige to be a full-time pro in rugby league. I’ve learned a lot from Mark Aston, who has been a massive influence on my career so far. I enjoyed playing for him regularly earlier in the season, but results slipped off a bit and he had to do what was best for the team.
“I understand that and I understand what he’s doing in letting me out on loan.”
Blagbrough is in his third season at Sheffield after growing up in Huddersfield Giants’ academy. He spent part of last season on loan at York City Knights.
He was at university in Leeds with Phil Joy and he knows Gareth Owen and Will Hope from when they had loan spells at Sheffield a couple of years ago.
Naylor won’t name his team to face Swinton until later, but he’s looking to climb the table with a third win in a row.
“It’s a big game with two important points at stake. We’ll be turning up to win,” said the Oldham boss.