WITH 18 players already contracted for next season or beyond, including new boys Ben Davies, Scott Leatherbarrow, Nathan Chappell and David Hewitt, Oldham are well ahead of schedule, said chairman Chris Hamilton at the club’s 2016 awards dinner.
Likening this time of year for rugby league clubs to New Year’s Eve, he said it was a time for taking stock, looking back and preparing for new challenges that lie ahead.
Referring to Scott Naylor’s target for a seventh or eight-place finish in the 2017 Championship, he commented: “With the money we’re spending and the squad we’re building I’d hope to finish a little bit higher than that.”
Wry smile Hamilton, wry smile Naylor — whispers of ‘no pressure then’ and clearly plenty of chemistry twixt chairman and coach.
Moving quickly on, Hamilton added: “We hope everyone will be excited by the players we are bringing in. We are aiming to improve the quality of the players and in so doing improve the quality of the squad.
“We are not the biggest club in the division, but what we do we do well and that’s because we all pull together in our quest to make our club bigger and better.
“We are a special group and we have some commendable things going on in the background.
“Inevitably some players will leave us. One of them is Lewis Palfrey who, over the last four years, has been an outstanding player, person and club captain.
“We all wish Lewis, and others who are leaving us, the very best, except for the occasions they’re playing against us.
“This year has been a massive learning curve for everyone at the club, but since Scott (Naylor) first walked through the door (four years ago) everyone has given everything for this club.”
Looking ahead to next year and the new club’s 20th season of existence, he said everyone connected with Roughyeds should take great credit for what had been achieved in that time.
He went on: “There will be lots of different ways we can recognise this anniversary.
“Big challenges and opportunities lie ahead and we will definitely be up for those.
“Kieran Gill, who is now with us on long-term loan from Castleford, encapsulates what this club is all about.
“I have never known anyone (on loan) embrace our club like Kieran has done. He has been ‘one of us’ since his very first game when he scored a try and immediately ran over to the fans behind the posts and gave them the thumbs-up.”