WITH the first pre-season game at Barrow only ten days away, the Roughyeds’ focus in training will now be moving away from stamina and fitness and settling more on systems, new combinations and specific match preparation.
Danny Bridge won’t be available until late April because of suspension and both Danny Grimshaw (hamstring) and Ben Davies (calf) are more than likely to be eased back gradually after picking up strains during a tough and demanding pre-season programme of strength and conditioning.
Oldham will be travelling north with one eye on the following Sunday’s Law Cup clash with neighbours Rochdale Hornets at the Vestacare Stadium (3pm) which will be a great opportunity for Roughyeds fans to see the club’s many new faces on home territory for the first time.
While the Barrow game will probably be a typical first hit-out for both sides, the derby clash at the Vestacare on Sunday, January 20, with silverware at stake, will be typical of many tremendous Oldham-Rochdale thrillers in recent years — tough, competitive, intense and full of derby passion.
First things first, though, and among the new signings on view this month will be forwards Ben Calland, Jamie Greenwood, Scott Law and Emerson Whittel and backs Richie Hawkyard, Aaron Jones-Bishop and Anthony Bowman.
Championship outfit Barrow have also been busy on close-season signings, landing, among others, three Papua New Guinea internationals in Stargroth Amean, Wartova Puara Jnr and Willie Minorga.
They’ve also lined up an un-named trialist hooker/half-back from New Zealand, but neither he nor the trio from PNG are here yet and it isn’t known whether they’ll be rushed into action against Roughyeds or kept back for the next pre-season game.
Also doubtful for Sunday week are former England international forward Gareth Hock, who damaged a shoulder while boxing in a local tournament organised by the Raiders, and prop Jono Smith, who has a hamstring problem.
Coach Paul Crarey said:
“Oldham won’t be easy. They’ve bought well and I quite like Scott Naylor as a coach.
“They’re very intense, disciplined and strong and they always give us a tough game.
“They’ve got good, new players so we need to be ready for them in order to get ourselves in some kind of order for the start of the season.”
Speaking of big-signing Hock, he added:
“He’s our biggest concern at the moment. He’s had a scan to make sure it isn’t a bad tear, but it was more of a precaution so that we don’t get another tear further down the track.”