PROPS Ben Davies and Jack Spencer have recovered from back and groin injuries respectively as Oldham RL players look ahead eagerly to their first pre-season game away to Swinton Lions on January 8.
“They’re counting the days,” said coach Scott Naylor, who confirmed that Davies and Spencer were back in full training.
He added: “Training for week after week with no end product can get boring. With only 18 days to go, and Christmas and New Year in between, the lads know they’re on the back straight in the run-up to the first game.
“It gives them something to talk about; something to focus on; and the talking has already started.”
Craig Briscoe will miss much of the season, but apart from him only Danny Grimshaw (groin) and Nathan Chappell (knee) are currently under the watch of the medical team, and even they are expected back soon.
Competition for places will be fierce, but no more so than in the front-row — the engine room of any rugby side — where Phil Joy, Spencer, Davies, Adam Neal, Joe Burke and Michael Ward will be scrapping each week for two starting spots and probably two more places on the bench.
Naylor, meanwhile, is closing in on his appointment of a captain to succeed Lewis Palfrey, who is now at Rochdale.
He will also have to find a goalkicker from within his 21-man squad to follow Palfrey, consistently one of the best marksmen outside Super League over the last four seasons.
“It’s all in hand,” said the Roughyeds boss. “There are two or three captaincy candidates. I’ve talked about them with ‘Spanner’ and Pete (his assistants Lee Spencer and Peter Carey), but we haven’t said anything yet either to those players or to the squad as a whole.
“It’s much the same regarding goalkickers. We’ve got two or three who are capable, so we’ll look at them in the friendlies and take it from there.”
Naylor, one of five nominees for a 2016 Championship coach-of-the-year award in a trade paper poll, has endorsed his chairman Chris Hamilton’s liking for the RFL’s changes to the laws of the game.
He said the governing body had clearly given a lot of thought to the new rules, which would have a positive influence on improving the sport.