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New decade, new season, fresh start . . .

​SUNDAY’S pre-season derby clash at Rochdale will herald a fresh start for both clubs in the annals of the traditional and historic Law Cup, writes ROGER HALSTEAD.

It couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time . . . new season, new year, new decade and with both clubs looking for a fresh start in different league competitions, Oldham in the Betfred Championship after their exciting 2019 promotion, Hornets in Betfred League 1 after an ill-fated Championship season with deep-seated problems to overcome off the field and behind the scenes.

There are now definite signs of a bright, new future on the other side of the M62 with a return to private ownership and the arrival of a new board under the direction of former Swinton Lions chief Andy Mazey. But more of that later. What of Oldham?

Stability is, without doubt, one of the Roughyeds’ strong points and one of its greatest assets. Apart from a brief spell when he was chief executive, Chris Hamilton has been in the chair for 23 years.

And in Matt Diskin, Roughyeds have their first new coach in eight years and only their third in 13.

Coincidentally, though, there are other changes too this year with a new assistant coach, Brendan Sheridan; a new conditioner in Tim Abeyie; a new physiotherapist in former Wigan Warriors and Harlequins RL player Chris Melling; and half a dozen new players in James Worthington, Lewis Charnock, John Hutchings, Jode Sheriffe, Dan Abram and Daniel Igbinedion.

A big change off the field too with the arrival of CDX Security, and its managing director John Roddy (a man well established and well known in rugby league circles), as main sponsors.

While you can’t read too much into pre-season friendlies this new Oldham set-up got off to an encouraging start with a win at Barrow last Sunday when tries by new boy Dan Abram (2), Harry Aaronson and Danny Bridge, plus three conversions by Abram, got them home, 22-18.

They did more than enough to deserve a big following of fans at the Crown Oil Arena on Sunday.

Roughyeds fans have already heard how much the Law Cup means to Gareth Owen and his team mates and supporters now have this opportunity to get behind the boys and show what derby bragging rights mean to them too.

Oldham will be going for their third straight win in the Law Cup, having triumphed 28-8 at the Vestacare Stadium last year and 28-24 at the Crown Oil Arena in 2018.
In fact, Roughyeds have won five of the last six pre-season derbies, the exception being Rochdale’s 24-12 win in 2017.

The game hasn’t attracted a four-figure crowd since 2008 in Rochdale when 1,108 witnessed a 26-20 win for Hornets, but club officials hope that with both clubs on the thresholds of new beginnings Sunday’s showdown could attract the biggest gate for a long time.

Rochdale also put up an encouraging display last Sunday, going down by ten points at home to a young Widnes Vikings side.

Matt Calland will have a few trialists on view — some from the Oldham area — but he’s also got plenty of experience in players like new skipper Sean Penkywicz, Shaun Ainscough and his latest recruit, Dale Bloomfield, who has played for both clubs.

There’s a feeling among the Hornets faithful that with the arrival of a new board of directors the only way is up.

There should be a decent crowd and it would be nice to think it could hit four figures for the first time since 2008.

Last ten attendances:

At Oldham — 569 (2019), 575 (2017), 796 (2011), 1,493 (2004), 1,360 (1993).
At Rochdale — 504 (2018), 624 (2016), 819 (2013), 1,108 (2008), 1,114 (2006).

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AS you all know from your own experiences these are tough times for everybody, but we believe you will agree that OLDHAM RLFC is taking massive inspiration from the fabulous NHS and other key workers in tackling Covid head-on, while looking forward positively to the 2021 season and better times ahead thanks to the outstanding work now being done to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Nevertheless, we have to face facts and be realistic enough to accept that the club urgently needs every pound that is currently coming in from whatever source. One of those sources is our Club Cash lottery and we would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who support us on this. A lot of you who used to pay our collectors on the doorstep have responded to our suggestions on how to pay by different methods and we are extremely grateful for that. Thanks again. You will never know how much difference your contributions make.

Alas, our income from the lottery has dropped by more than 50 per cent over the course of the pandemic and that would be a huge blow financially at any time let alone a time of unprecedented hardship because of the pandemic. It really is a situation we seriously need to address.

With that in mind the prize fund for the duration of the latest national lockdown will be temporarily reduced from February 10.

You will still be able to win a £1,000 first prize, plus £100, £50, £25 and ten £10 prizes every week, while continuing to provide vital support for the club and it will only cost you £1 a week. You can’t get a decent coffee for that, but the difference it makes to the club when multiplied a few times over and then multiplied again by 52 – the number of weeks in the financial year – is of major significance.

If you can help us at all — for £1 a week — it would be hugely appreciated by everyone with Oldham RL Club at heart. The prize structure still represents good value for money for an outlay of £1.

To those who are already members and help us accordingly, we very much hope to retain your support at this extremely difficult time.

Should you wish to play but don’t, due to the pausing of cash collection rounds, we have other options available, which you can discuss with our lottery administrator, John McAndrew on 07980129541 or from the club on 07904 898177.

Alternatively, you can send an email to: mcandrewj@aol.com or to: enquiries@roughyeds.co.uk

The prize fund will be increased back to previous levels as soon as latest lockdowns are released. Please watch our website and social media platforms for further announcements.

Finally, if you want more information about the lottery or you wish to discuss your membership please contact one of the numbers given above.

A huge thank-you to you all.

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