PAUL Crook will be looking to play in his 250th career game when Oldham go to Bradford Bulls on Sunday in the Betfred League 1 play-off semi-final.
The goal-kicking half-back made 164 appearances for Rochdale Hornets, either side of spells with Widnes Vikings (13 games), Doncaster (10), Swinton (8) and Whitehaven (27).
He has played 27 times for Roughyeds this year, putting him within one game of his major milestone.
A year ago he was in a third-tier play-off series with Whitehaven, who narrowly beat York in a golden-point thriller at the Recreation Ground only to go down to Barrow Raiders in an equally-exciting final at Craven Park.
On Sunday, Oldham will be without the suspended Ben Davies, Luke Nelmes and Luke Hooley, but coach Scott Naylor insists that all the pressure and weight of expectation is on the Bulls.
Of the side with whom he won every honour in the game as a strong centre, the Roughyeds boss said:
“They’ve beaten us twice this season and the pressure is on them, not just this weekend but to gain promotion.
“The bookies made them odds-on favourites (to win the league and go up automatically) but they’ve not finished top of the division.
“Was that because York had a fantastic season or because Bradford didn’t ?”
Describing the play-offs as “trap-door football”, Bulls boss John Kear told the Telegraph and Argus:
“You’ve got to have confidence in your own squad, but also be respectful of the opposition.
“Oldham are a good team. Let’s not beat about the bush. Nobody has whacked them all season so we’ve got to be on our mettle.
“They’re a well-coached, tough, aggressive team who give you absolutely nothing.”
Bulls winger Ethan Ryan, whose 32 Betfred League 1 tries this year, earned him the League 1 Young Player Of The Year award in Manchester on Tuesday, believes the Odsal clash will be just as competitive as the recent league game at the Vestacare Stadium, which Bulls won 24-16.
Though playing most of the second half with 12 men, and finishing with 10, Roughyeds ‘nilled’ the Bulls after half-time and scored themselves with a Craig Briscoe try, goaled by Hooley.
“It’s going to be another tough contest,” said Ryan, a 22-year-old Academy product.
“I’m expecting a similar game to the one at Oldham, but from our point of view home advantage should make a difference this time.”
Big-match referee is Jack Smith, the former Royal Marines commando, who was discharged on medical grounds after being shot by a Taliban sniper in Afghanistan eight years ago.