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Crook back on familiar patch

POINTS-MACHINE Paul Crook has warned that Oldham’s big-game introduction to Betfred League 1 at Whitehaven on Sunday (3pm) will be even tougher than expected.

Signed by Roughyeds to kick goals, boot opponents to death and dictate tactics, midfield maestro Crook (31) has inside knowledge, having starred for the Cumbrians last season in a half-back double-act with his ex-Rochdale ally Steve Roper.

They helped to steer ‘Haven to a second-place League 1 finish, followed by narrow defeat at Barrow in the promotion final.

They then went their separate ways . . . stand-off Crook to Oldham, replacing Scott Leatherbarrow, and scrum-half Roper to North Wales Crusaders.

Now, in his first ‘serious’ game of 2018, Crook will go back to the Recreation Ground where his four goals helped the Cumbrians to a thrilling 21-20 extra-time triumph against York City Knights in their last home game of 2017.

He played in 27 of ‘Haven’s 28 games in all competitions last year, accumulating 225 points along the way.

He also learned, from the inside, why they are hard to beat at the ground they affectionately call ‘The Recre’.

He said:

“A lot of teams go there with trepidation and that makes’Haven even more determined to make it uncomfortable for them.

“They’re a big set of lads and they like to get in your face. It’s always like that. But there’s another factor at this time of year and that’s the state of the pitch. At best, it’s going to be very heavy going, which will make it even tougher.

“I know the pitch inside out so that should help when it comes to putting boot to ball, but we have to prepare for the forwards to slog it out. It won’t be a quick game.

“There couldn’t be a better introduction to League 1 though because it will test our credentials to do well this year. It will be good to get it out of the way early and to see what it tells
us.

“It’s nice to go back to a place where you’ve had good times and met some nice people, but once the game starts it becomes like any other.”

Betfred have installed Oldham as second favourites behind Bradford Bulls to win League 1 outright with Whitehaven in third place.

Head coach Scott Naylor isn’t fazed by the weight of expectation. 

He said:

“I like starting off with a game like this.  If we win it will be a great start; If we lose, it won’t be the end of the world because it’s the first game.

“We’ve been looking forward to it and talking about it for ages. It’s among the top three or four challenges we’ll face all season, so we can use it as a guide to prospects.”

Of his 21 contracted players, only Ben Davies (back) and club captain Gareth Owen (foot) are unavailable, although Owen has reached a key milestone on his long rehab journey by starting normal training.

Naylor will pick from 19 plus dual-registration players from Salford.

‘Haven boss Carl Forster’s big decision surrounds PNG pair Jesse Joe Parker and Dion Aiye, who have only just arrived in West Cumbria after being holed up in Brisbane waiting for visas. Forster will check their general fitness, especially Aiye who contracted pneumonia while in Australia.

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AS lockdown restrictions start to ease, now is the time for everyone connected with Oldham RLFC to do all they can to help with getting income from our Club Cash lottery back to where it was before the pandemic started to bite.

This is vital for the club and its finances which, as you all know, have taken a massive hit in the past 12 months.

Collectors will be returning to door-to-door visits in the next few weeks and we hope people who suspended payments will pick up where they left off as we strive and work hard to get back to where we were before the pandemic caused us to lose 50 per cent of our lottery income.

Many of our regular punters, who would normally pay a collector, have answered our calls for help by finding other ways to pay and to retain their chances of winning prizes.

To those people we are very grateful and we would like to take this opportunity to thank them once again for their loyal and continued support.

The lottery, of course, is potentially one of our biggest fund-raisers and for as little as £1 a week — more if you wish — you can help the club immensely and at the same time have chances to win £1,000, £100, £50, £25 or one of ten consolation prizes of £10.

That’s the present prize structure. There’s every chance it will be increased once we are out of lockdown, door-to-door collections start again and we get back to some sort of normality.

In the meantime you can join, or start up again, by contacting the club on 07904 898177 or by email to: enquiries@roughyeds.co.uk

For more information about the lottery, and for the “great opportunities” provided by our partnership with the National Youth and Community Development Association (NYCDA) go our Club Cash page.

There, you will find all the results and a detailed statement about getting back to normal with the help of our not-for-profit partners.

All proceeds from the partnership will continue to support the club and help us to meet the aims of our Club Cash activities, particularly in its aims and objectives to be an active stakeholder in the local community.

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