Sheffield game takes us down memory lane

Oldham 26 v Whitehaven 18 Bower Fold Sunday 26th June

PHIL Joy will make his 100th appearance for the ‘new’ Oldham club on Monday . . . just 20 years and four days after Scott Ranson scored a try hat-trick for the ‘old’ club in the last competitive game to be played at Watersheddings.

And what links ‘old’ and ‘new’ ? Sheffield Eagles, the opposition on both occasions.

Back in 1996, the last match of the inaugural Super League summer season on August 25 coincided with the end of serious rugby in the famous, yet by then run-down old stadium.

Mark Aston, who brings his Eagles to Bower Fold on Monday (3pm) as head coach and Director of Rugby, played scrum-half in a Sheffield side that led 21-6 at half-time but succumbed to an amazing second-half fightback by Oldham, who dropped the curtain on a century of rugby at Watersheddings with a 34-25 triumph.

Coached by Andy Goodway, Roughyeds lined up like this:

Myler; Belle, Atcheson, Neal, Ranson; Maloney, Crompton; Gildart, Burns, Guy, Faimalo, Munro, Bradbury. Subs: Crook, Topping, G Lord, Davidson.

Winger Ranson starred with three exciting tries, others coming from Paul Atcheson (2), David Bradbury and Gary Burns.

Two decades on, Ranson went on social media to remind Roughyeds fans of the anniversary of that nostalgic occasion, posting footage of his tries in a trip down Memory Lane.

Oldham finished the season in eighth place in a Super League division of 12 — one place below Sheffield — with nine wins and a draw from 22 games, including the double over Leeds Rhinos.

Castleford Tigers, Leeds, Paris St Germain and Workington Town finished beneath debt-ridden Oldham who, despite income of £850,000 from News Corporation, £20,000 for finishing eighth and undisclosed TV money, were to go into voluntary liquidation the following year with debts of more than £1M.

Twenty years on Sheffield find themselves in similar difficulties, having made the decision to go full-time only a year ago.

They have assured fans they will finish the season, but beyond that they urgently need new investment from one of two potential new owners with whom they are locked in advanced negotiations.

If there is to be a Sheffield Eagles next season they will almost certainly revert to a part-time operation, leaving members of the current squad — former Oldham players Adam Neal and George Tyson among them — wondering what the future holds.

Whether that uncertainty will affect their performance on Monday against an Oldham side that beat them home and away in the regular season, remains to be seen.

They will want to hit back after a home defeat by Swinton Lions last time out, but so will Scott Naylor’s men after that mind-blowing 82-0 defeat at Bradford, after which the club apologised to fans for an “unacceptable” performance.

Prop-forward Joy won’t want his milestone appearance remembered for a dreadful team performance like the one fans had to endure at Odsal.

He made a try-scoring debut in a 56-12 Championship One win at Gateshead at the end of the 2012 season when caretaker boss Martin Roden picked the team following head coach Tony Benson’s departure.

Since Naylor took charge at the start of the following season, 2013, Joy has gone from strength to strength; has become a fixture in the Roughyeds front-row; and has recently shown his commitment to the club by signing a new contract for 2017.

As a born-and-bred Oldhamer, like his fellow forwards Michael Ward and Gareth Owen, the ton-up boy will have felt the pain of that 82-0 mauling more than most.

And on the day when older fans will recall the Watersheddings swansong and Ranson’s match-winning hat-trick, Joy and his present-day Roughyeds will have the opportunity to pick themselves of the floor and earn the win that will almost certainly clinch their Championship survival.

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