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New Boys on Show at Featherstone

LUCKY for some ? Head coach Matt Diskin will play 13 new signings in Saturday’s friendly at Featherstone, the Roughyeds’ first game in more than a year.

The one missing new boy will be utility forward Shaun Pick, who has a calf strain and won’t be risked.

Diskin has confirmed that every fit and available player in his 29-man squad will get a run-out at The Millennium Stadium, a game that will kick-off at 1.30pm and be played behind closed doors due to Covid.

Several players are carrying knocks sustained in tough, physical training sessions and will have to wait a little bit longer before they finally return to action .

Sitting out this one are forwards Jack Spencer (bruised ribs), Pick (calf) and Matty Wilkinson (broken leg), as well as backs Kyran Johnson (calf), Cam Leeming (hamstring) and John Hutchings (unavailable).

That leaves a squad of 23 to get the 2021 campaign up and running, although the first Betfred Championship game against derby rivals Swinton Lions is still four weeks away.

Squad: Abram, Barran, Bent, Bridge, Brierley, Charnock, Dupree, Fletcher, Green, Gregory, Hartley, Heaton, Hewitt, Holcroft, Ince, Joy, Kirk, Langtree, Nelmes, Owen, Reilly, Roberts, Sheriffe.

Wearing Oldham colours for the first time will be Barran, Brierley, Dupree, Green, Gregory, Hartley, Holcroft, Kirk, Reilly, Roberts and Sheriffe.

Heaton, Nelmes and Ince are also new signings, although all three have played for Roughyeds previously, Ince while on loan at the start of last season before the lockdown.

Jode Sheriffe was also signed last season, but he damaged a knee in training and didn’t make his debut before the season was curtailed.

He has since joined the coaching staff while still registered as a player. He is still waiting for surgery on the knee, but he has come through pre-season training successfully and may be given a run-out.

Covid restrictions have held up his operation, but he is due to have it soon.

Said Diskin:

“The two friendlies against Featherstone and Halifax will be extremely good for us because both are top-level Championship clubs who have finished regularly in the top five in recent seasons. They are quality opponents, no doubt about that.

“As for us, we are all very excited about actually playing again and this game on Saturday will be a great way of finding out exactly where we are up to in terms of getting ready for the new Championship season.

“Training has been a bit stop and start because of Covid and the awful weather we’ve had, but that’s been the same for all clubs and I have to say we are generally very happy at the way things have gone.

“Despite that, you don’t really know where you stand until you actually pay a game so, as I say, this one will be a good yardstick for us.

“All the new guys have settled in really well and even the most recent two, Joe Hartley and Dec Gregory, have been training with us for a while so that will be a big help too.

“It will be a big day for Joe, who is very excited about it. I know its a friendly, but effectively it’s his first-ever game at this level and for his home-town team too so it’s huge for him on a personal note.

“All the lads are looking forward to it and are just keen to get back out on the field again.”

The same applies to Featherstone, who have also said they will use every player who is fit, available and ready to go.

The belief at the Millennium Stadium, or Post Office Road as it was traditionally called, is that they have assembled their strongest-ever squad in a bid to get into Super League this year, having lost in the 2019 Million Pound Game and failed again this year when the vacancy created by Toronto Wolfpack’s withdrawal went to Leigh Centurions.

Said head coach James Webster:

“We can’t wait to get out there again and I’m looking forward to seeing what our new signings have to offer.”

The game will be available to watch live for free on the Rovers own broadcasting facility which is accessed via their club website.

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