JIMMY Beckett is back with a mission . . . to play a lead role in seeing Oldham continuing their upward march following the promotion in which he was so heavily involved in the later stages of last season.
The young on-loan prop from Featherstone Rovers, who celebrated his 20th birthday while he was here last year, wore the Roughyeds shirt in six of the last seven games and became a club hero when he scored the promotion-winning try against Newcastle Thunder in the play-off final.
“I’ll never forget that,” said Beckett, who is back on a season-long loan with a recall clause which kicks in after 28 days. “It’s good to be back, especially after all we achieved last year. There are a lot of familiar faces still here even though some of the lads from last year have gone.
“On a personal note I had a good year in 2019, starting off in Academy rugby and ending the season by scoring in a senior Promotion Final.”
Beckett, who played in two of Featherstone’s pre-season games against York City Knights and Leeds Rhinos, is in contention for Oldham’s opening Betfred Championship game against Widnes Vikings at Bower Fold on Sunday (3pm).
His thoughts on the season ahead ?
“I think we’ll go okay. We’ll be underdogs in a lot of games with nothing to lose and that should give us the motivation to prove people wrong..”
It all starts at Bower Fold on Sunday when two clubs which have seen huge changes in the close season go head to head with new coaches, Matt Diskin (Oldham) and Tim Sheens (Widnes), both of whom are known to be what some people will describe as “offensive” coaches which puts them in a minority in the modern game.
It has been well documented that Diskin will demand far more than five drives and a kick.
What of Widnes, under the command of one of the highest-profile international coaches in the British game?
New skipper Jack Owens has said:
“All coaches put their own stamp on things and in Tim’s case pre-season has been a lot more fun with a lot more emphasis on ball work. We’ve done a lot of work on that.”
Looking ahead specifically to Sunday’s game at Bower Fold, he said: “We beat Oldham convincingly in the Challenge Cup last year, but they’re a different side now and we can’t afford to take them lightly.
“We’ve done video work on them and they’re going to be a threat.
“We’ve won each of our three pre-season games but they were games we should have won so we’re certainly not bragging yet. The real test will be at Oldham, If we all do our jobs individually we’ll come away with a win.
“We aim to make the top five, but I think the competition is going to be even tougher than last year.
“The likes of Oldham will be tough and then there’s going up to Whitehaven.
“We’ve become used to playing in front of the black and white army on away grounds and Sunday will be no different. Tickets are going well.”
So well, in fact, that Vikings have decided to open their shop today (Sat) and they say it’s to ease the demand at their stall in Widnes Indoor Market.
They’ve also announced a dual-reg partnership with Warrington Wolves.
Vikings will be without Jay Chapelhow (ankle) and MacGraff Leuluai (hip) but they’ve still got a strong 21-man squad which provides potential debuts for Kenny Baker, Liam Cooper, Deon Cross, Connor Dwyer, Lewis Hulme and Pat Moran with second debuts for Shane Grady, Jack Johnson, Matty Smith and Logan Tomkins.
Squad: Baker, T Chapelhow, Cooper, Craven, Cross, Dugdale, Dwyer, Edge, Farnworth, Grady, Hulme, Johnson, Lyons, Moran, O’Neill, Owens, Roby, Smith, Spedding, Tomkins, Wilde.
Roughyeds fans are advised to get to the ground in plenty of time to ease congestion at the turnstiles.