OLDHAM RL Club’s 2019 campaign starts with a pre-season hit-out at Barrow on Sunday, but fans are already gearing up for the following Sunday’s Vestacare Stadium showdown with derby rivals Rochdale Hornets for the Law Cup.
For various reasons, there hasn’t been a Law Cup game in the borough of Oldham since 2011, so this will hopefully produce something of a special occasion in Limehurst Village in terms of a decent attendance and a Roughyeds triumph.
Fans will also get the opportunity to see seven new signings in their Vestacare Stadium debuts.
New boys Richie Hawkyard, Ben Calland, Jamie Greenwood, Aaron Jones-Bishop, Anthony Bowman, Emerson Whittel and Scott Law will probably be on duty at Barrow this weekend (3pm, Sunday), but most fans will wait to see them first at the Vestacare Stadium a week later.
There’s nothing like an Oldham-Hornets derby for stirring the passions of both sets of supporters, and this is likely to be the only time they’ll clash this year, given that Roughyeds will be in Betfred League 1 and Rochdale will be one step-up higher in the Betfred Championship.
Oldham will be aiming to keep their hands on the trophy which they wrestled back from Hornets a year ago when they won 28-24 at the Crown Oil Arena in a real thriller, highlighted by Paul Crook’s six goals from seven shots in his Roughyeds debut against the club where he was once a fans’ favourite.
Crook has since joined the coaching staff at the Vestacare Stadium, but he’s also registered as a player and will be expected to play a key role at stand-off as one of the side’s senior citizens.
Having signed Hawkyard, Bowman and Law, as well as re-signing Danny Grimshaw after a year away, Roughyeds will be much more experienced this year and Crook will have a lot more ‘old heads’ around him.
Hornets will also field a new-look side but, more importantly, they will be under the command of a new coach in Carl Forster, who has just snapped up full-back, half-back or hooker Dan Abram, who was with him at Whitehaven last season.
The history of the Law Cup goes back to 1921 when Rochdale MP A J Law, a local mill-owner, put up the cup for a pre-season game which would raise money for hospitals in the two towns. Initially, it was known as the Infirmaries Cup, but with the arrival of the NHS just after the second world war it was decided to change the name to that of the donor.
It became the Law Cup and it has remained so to this day for annual competition between these friends and neighbours from either side of the M62.
Oldham have won four of the last five Law Cup games, winning 34-28 at home in 2011 and 22-20, 29-12 and 28-24 away in 2013, 2016 and 2018 respectively.
Rochdale won 24-12 at Stalybridge in 2017 and there were no games in 2012, 2014 and 2015.
Since 2004, the Oldham RL Heritage Trust has presented a trophy to the player it judged to be Oldham’s man of the match.
Previous winners were Ian Watson, Andy Isherwood, James Kirkland, James Coyle, Gary Sykes, Ben Wood, Jamie Dallimore, Josh Crowley, Scott Leatherbarrow and Matt Reid, four of them half-backs.
The best post-war attendance was 11,653 in 1952 when Oldham won 25-8 at Watersheddings but in the last 50 years the biggest was 3, 097 at Spotland on January 1, 1998 when Oldham won 36-16 in the first game since the birth of Oldham RLFC (1997) Ltd.
The last time the game was played in Oldham there was a crowd of nearly 800 and if the attendance on Sunday week goes close to matching that both clubs will be happy.
Usual prices will apply, namely £14, £12 and £2 (standing) and £16, £14 and £5 (sitting). The lowest prices apply to under-16s.
You can still get season tickets for discounted prices but you’ll have to move quickly. To purchase on line you have until midnight on Friday (January 11), but to pay over the counter at the club’s office (cash or cheque only) the deadline is 3pm on Friday.
The office for the rest of this week is open ONLY Wednesday and FRIDAY between 10am and 3pm.