OLDHAM have had the Law Cup in their locker since 2011 and have won each of the two games under Scott Naylor’s command, the first in 2013 and the second last year when Roughyeds won 29-12 at what was then called Spotland.
Naylor jealously guards his “unbeaten” Law Cup record and he certainly doesn’t want to lose it at Bower Fold on Sunday (3pm) when Oldham will play only their third Law Cup “home” game since the new club was formed ahead of the 1998 season.
There have been 13 such games since then and 11 of them have been in Rochdale with Oldham winning seven and Hornets six.
They won four on the spin in 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2010, but since then Oldham have been in the ascendancy with wins in 2011, 2013 and 2016.
This traditional pre-season game, which provided me with some of my earliest rugby league and Athletic Grounds memories (like an attendance of 18,000 on one occasion back then !), was first played in 1921 as a way, in pre NHS days, of raising money for the Infirmaries in both Oldham and Rochdale.
In those early days it was known as the Infirmaries Cup and one of its driving forces was the Rochdale MP A J Law, who owned a mill in Littleborough.
In 1949, by which time there was no longer a need for the Infirmaries to fund themselves, the trophy was renamed the Law Cup, receipts were shared by the clubs rather than the local hospitals and thus began a tradition which has remained to this day, although there have been spells when, for various reasons, the game has been in to cold storage.
There have been 65 games in total (thanks to the Oldham RL Heritage Trust for these stats) with Oldham winning 43, Rochdale 19 and three draws.
The ‘new’ Oldham club will be keen to retain its unbeaten home record on Sunday, but Hornets boss Alan Kilshaw has similarly told the Rochdale Observer he is desperate to win this win.
The Observer reports that Kilshaw wasn’t bothered about losing 44-18 to Salford Red Devils last week but insists that the Oldham game is one he wants to win.
He said: “It will be tough because Oldham have a good home record. They’ve had tough away games against Swinton and Barrow and they’ll be battle-hardened. We’ll put out our strongest side.
“The players are excited and want to show what they can do.”