OLDHAM’S players clocked off for Christmas last night (Thurs) with thoughts already turning to the Law Cup game at Rochdale on Sunday, January 7.
The new-look squad has steadily and gradually increased in number since pre-season work began in early November and it now numbers 21, ten of whom are ‘freshers’.
They include three who have worn Roughyeds colours previously — Liam Bent, who was on loan last season from Salford but is now fully contracted to Oldham; Jack Holmes, back after a stint at Rochdale; and Danny Rasool, who played in the reserves at Whitebank five years ago as a 17-year-old unknown.
The other newcomers are goalkicking stand-off Paul Crook (from Whitehaven), prop Luke Nelmes (Halifax), full-back Kyran Johnson (Featherstone), winger Dave Eccleston (St Helens), centre Matt Reid (Coventry), second-rower Adam Jones (Swinton) and second-rower Danny Bridge, who has been playing in Australia for Redcliffe Dolphins in the Queensland Cup for the past two seasons.
One of his last games for Dolphins was a never-to-be-forgotten experience for the Oldham-born Bridge who flew from Queensland to Papua New Guinea for a semi-final in Port Moresby against a PNG Hunters side which included ten members of the Kumuls’ World Cup squad, including vice-captain Asa Boas.
Dolphins led 4-0 at half-time, but finally succumbed 4-6 after a late try by Boas for the Hunters side, who were backed by their fanatical fans in a real thriller played in hot, humid conditions.
It will be vastly different conditions when Bridge, this time in Oldham colours, goes back to his old club at Rochdale in a fortnight’s time for the traditional Law Cup clash between these fierce derby rivals.
“We train again between Christmas and New Year and the week after that we’ll be getting ready for Rochdale,” commented Roughyeds boss Scott Naylor.
“The start of the new season seems to have come round exceptionally quickly this year. It feels like the quickest pre-season we’ve ever had.
“They say time flies when you’re enjoying yourself and I think that’s had a lot to do with it. We’ve had a great time together since early November and it’s helped to freshen things up with having so many new faces.”
Of the 21 on contract only hooker Gareth Owen is still on rehab after suffering a serious foot injury last season.
Added Naylor: “All the others are fully fit and ready to go, but ‘Gaz’ isn’t ready yet. He hopes to start running in two or three weeks and, for his comeback, he has targeted the start of the season proper in mid-February or, maybe, in the last of the three friendlies.
“Either way, he is under no pressure. The main thing is that he gets himself right before he plays again.”