GARETH WALKER, well known and well respected among rugby league’s Press Gang, had this to say in a recent League Express article headlined: “Survival Instincts”:
AMID all the current drama surrounding Grand Finals, the Million Pound game and relegation, two Championship feats should not go unrecognised.
Oldham and Swinton’s considerable achievements in surviving in an increasingly tough league deserved to be applauded loudly.
Historically, it’s always been a difficult step-up from the third tier to the second.
But given the huge disparity in central funding and resources between the top of the Championship and the bottom in the current structure, which should be addressed, surviving in the current climate deserves additional credit.
Both clubs are led by young English coaches with growing reputations.
Scott Naylor has now completed his fourth season in charge of the Roughyeds, with the first two of those impressive in the main before ultimately ending in disappointment with failed promotion bids.
Naylor and the club stuck firmly to their beliefs and last year finally earned the elevation the club had been chasing since long before the current coach arrived.
Even then, there were no sweeping changes in Naylor’s squad for the step-up. He showed faith and loyalty to the key players who had earned promotion and kept the spine of the group together.
Despite a tough opening set of fixtures they chalked-up an early-season win over Dewsbury at their new Bower Fold home and then hit a real purple patch in April and May.
The Roughyeds won four from five, including that stunning, memorable Challenge Cup triumph at Hull KR.
A dip in form sent them back to the relegation shake-up but come the Championship Shield and a gutsy home win over drop-rivals Whitehaven in the penultimate game of the season and their status was secured.
Neither club (Oldham and Swinton) will be resting on their laurels.
With Hull KR dropping down and Toulouse and local rivals Rochdale coming up, the Championship will arguably be even tougher next season.
Both Swinton and Oldham appear to have taken long-term approaches to their attempts to succeed and to date that has served them both well.