MARTYN Ridyard orchestrates the in-form Swinton Lions side that will twice go head-to-head with Oldham in the run-up to Easter.
They have a strong, mobile pack and classy, pacy backs in Geronimo Doyle at full-back and Richard Lepori and Mike Butt on the wings, but 34-year-old stand-off Ridyard, who made his name at Leigh Centurions, is the new boy in whom Lions boss Stuart Littler is pinning so much faith for the upcoming Betfred Championship season.
Oldham go to Heywood Road, Sale on Sunday (12.30pm) in the second round of the Betfred Challenge Cup and then, five days later, meet the Lions again at Bower Fold (Good Friday, April 2, kick-off 5.15pm) in the opening game of the Championship season.
So far, Littler’s Lions have beaten Bradford Bulls away in a friendly and accounted for fancied Newcastle Thunder in the first round of the Cup, while Roughyeds were beaten in friendlies by Featherstone and Halifax before producing a rousing show by the forwards to get rid of a big, experienced Barrow side in the first round of the cup.
Their key to another Cup win at Swinton would seem to be another dominant, powerful performance by the big men of the pack like Luke Nelmes, Liam Kirk, Martyn Reily, Shaun Pick and Tyler Dupree, but however coach Matt Diskin chooses to play it he’ll have to find a way of stifling Ridyard’s influence on the tie.
By all accounts, Swinton’s game plan seemed to revolve almost exclusively around the classy veteran in the win against Newcastle.
He’s the brains of the outfit and the ‘old head’ who can read any game perfectly and who still has the skill to kick opponents to death and the experience to make the right decisions at the right time.
Apparently, he ran the game against Thunder, kicked immaculately, rarely took a tackle and walked off with hardly a mark on him, his job well done — the mark of a polished performer and the master of his trade.
In his brilliant career at Leigh, he twice lifted the Northern Rail Cup and was key to the Leythers’ Championship title win in 2014.
In the same year, he was named Kingstone Press player of the year before enjoying spells with Huddersfield Giants and Featherstone, returning to LSV in 2019 before becoming Swinton’s big hope and big marquee signing for 2021.
He’ll keep deep and attempt to run the show in relative tranquillity, but Oldham will have to find a way of putting him under severe pressure, and that’s easier said than done.