PROMOTION to the Betfred Championship will make “so much difference” to the club and its future, said Oldham chairman Chris Hamilton as fans danced with delight and players celebrated with their trophy on the stage inside the Vestacare Stadium social club.
“To be playing the likes of Toulouse, Featherstone, Leigh and many more of that calibre will make a huge difference,” said the chairman.
“It will require a lot of hard work that’s already started but for tonight and for the next few days it will be all about celebrating what we’ve achieved this season.”
By winning 11 of their last 12 games, following a 31-0 defeat at Doncaster which coach Scott Naylor described as “embarrassing”, Oldham finished second to Whitehaven, who went up automatically.
They then beat Doncaster and Newcastle Thunder at home in the five-club play-off to earn the right to join the Cumbrians in the Championship in 2020.
The chairman was in hospital for a replacement knee only five days before the Promotion Final, after which the players carried the trophy over to him in the stand and each gave him a hug.
Said skipper Gareth Owen, who received the trophy from the RFL’s Chris Brindley MBE,:
“It was a weird game. We dominated the first half without getting the rewards.
“Trailing by only two points at half-time, and with the use of a tricky wind to come, Thunder would be buzzing at half-time but we got the job done thanks to Jimmy Beckett’s match-winner and then we closed the game down.
“I felt we should have gone up as champions, but that’s rugby league. We did it the hard way, the Oldham way.
“Next year will be all about surviving in the higher division and then consolidating from there.”
Hamilton said of his club captain:
“He’s a proud Oldhamer and a great lad to have as captain.He’s led by example for three years.
“He’s always positive, he can gee people up and he leads from the front.”
Full-back Ritchie Hawkyard won the man-of-the-match award for his heroism in defence and his optimism in attack.
The Magic Moment prize went to winger Declan Kay for his try-saving interception to prevent a late try for Newcastle.
“I’ve only been at the club six weeks but the moment I walked through the door I could sense the camaraderie and the terrific team spirit.”