CHRIS Hamilton, chairman and owner of relegated Oldham Rugby League Club, can’t make a serious start on planning for life in League 1 because of numerous imponderables concerning both the sport’s divisional structures and the amount of central funding third-tier clubs will receive next year.
Roughyeds were condemned to third-tier rugby league again when they were beaten 62-4 at Widnes Vikings on Sunday, while third-bottom Dewsbury Rams were winning at Sheffield Eagles.
With two games still to play — at home to Newcastle Thunder on Sunday (3pm) and away to Dewsbury on Sunday week, September 19 — Roughyeds have lost 16 of their 19 games, winning two and drawing one.
They beat Swinton and Halifax, both at Bower Fold, in two of the first four Betfred Championship games of the season, but they weren’t able to sustain that promising start and they haven’t won since knocking over Halifax 16-12 on May 1.
Halifax currently sit third in the Championship, behind Toulouse Olympique and Featherstone Rovers, but on a sizzling behind-closed-doors Bower Fold May Day Sunday, Roughyeds beat them with tries by Tommy Brierley, Martyn Reilly and on-loan Jack Croft, plus two goals by Callum Green.
Who could possibly have imagined that in the next game, Whitehaven would come to Bower Fold and win 36-4 with 30 unanswered points in the second half, while playing up the Bower Fold slope?
Those 40 second-half minutes were the start of what went wrong this season.
Fourteen defeats and a draw at Swinton in the last 15 games sent Roughyeds down.
It was after seven losses in a row that club and coach Matt Diskin parted company at the end of June with half a season remaining on the former Leeds Rhino star’s contract.
Hamilton pulled of a major coup by persuading high-profile Brian McDermott to come in as coaching consultant, charged with the task of trying to keep Roughyeds in the Championship from a position of two wins and nine defeats in 11 games.
In the eight games since McDermott’s involvement began, Roughyeds have still to register a win, although they drew 22-22 at bottom-of-the-table Swinton on August 8 and in most of those eight games they played to a standard which was significantly higher than anything they came up with during the run of seven consecutive defeats.
Sadly, with an injury-hit, depleted side at Widnes on Sunday, Roughyeds slipped back to their earlier-season form, showing none of the fighting spirit which had shone through in previous games under McDermott.
So, after two seasons in the Championship (tier 2) in 2020 and 2021, Roughyeds will be back in tier-3 in 2022.
They go down with Swinton — and one of the positive aspects of this particular relegation is that it will almost certainly provide derby clashes with Swinton and Rochdale Hornets.
Hornets would have to win promotion to spoil the three-way derby party and as they currently sit seventh in a ten-club division that seems unlikely.
Oldham are currently more concerned about central funding and league structures, both of which are subject to new proposals and counter-proposals, to be considered in the next few weeks.