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One day to the big kick-off

ONE DAY TO GO . . . and our captain and chief play-maker Martyn Ridyard has said he will do all in his power to make a good job of his first-ever captaincy in the Betfred League One season that starts this weekend.

We open-up with Keighley Cougars at the Vestacare Stadium (3pm kick-off) on Sunday, the first day of British Summer Time.

Its a game that promises to be a cracker and “Riddy” is just as sure to be a key man for Roughyeds as Scott Murrell is for Cougars.

Needing just two goals for a career 1,000, our on-field leader said:

“We are building something here from the start. Hopefully, I can play my part and be a good captain on and off the field.

“There are lots of good teams in League One and as I see it there are no clear favourites. The winner will really have to earn it this year.”

The former Leigh Centurions points machine will be playing in League One for the first time and he expects it to be “a little bit rough and tough.”

He added:

“It will be challenging, but I’m up for a challenge and really looking forward to what lies ahead.”

Head coach Stu Littler, the only person Ridyard knew when he first arrived at the club last autumn, has named his initial 21, but Jason Muranka didn’t make it – he’ll have another head-injury check with a specialist next week – and nor did Jamie Pye, who went out on dual reg with Salford reserves last week and scored a try at Wakefield Trinity.

Said Littler: “He got good minutes and came through it well. I’ve gone through his performance with him on tape and had a really good chat with him. All this is part of his development.”

The squads:

OLDHAM: _Andrade, Brierley, Cameron, Copland, Cooke, Coventry, Ferry, Hartley, Hewitt, Holcroft, Jinks, Morgan, Nelmes, Newton, Restall, Ridyard, Spencer, Thornton, Wellington, Whittel, Wright. _ KEIGHLEY: _Agoro, Bailey, Cullimore, Darley, Desmond-Walker, Dyer-Dixon, Feather, Graham, Ho, Kesik, Levy, Miller, Murrell, Nettleton, Roebuck, Santi, Scully, Spence, Stephenson, Webster, Young. _ Brad Ho, Rory Nettleton and Keenan Dyer-Dixon are hoping for Keighley debuts.

Half-back Jack Miller will captain for the first time and the legendary James Feather is expected to make his 349th appearance for the club.

Among the 11 players said to be unavailable for one reason or another — mainly injury and work commitments — are Dan Parker (suspended), Josh Lynam. Billy Gaylor, Anesu Mudoti, and Anthony Dyne.

Said coach Rhys Lovegrove:

“Oldham set the bar high for us three weeks ago in the friendly and it showed which of our boys could compete at that level. It’s early days so we’ll just focus on ourselves.”

The appointment of James Vella as referee is an interesting one. A 32-year-old Australian, he’s been a ref in this country for two years and has just been promoted to the RFL’s full-time list.

Born in Sydney, he grew up in the St George Referees Society before coming to England in 2020 and working his way up through the system.

Vella, Jack Smith and Liam Rush have joined the full-time panel and Scott Mikalauskas and Oldham’s very own Robert Hicks have taken decisions to become part time again, Robert having been promoted to a very high position in his full time work for the RFL as a lawyer.

Vella names his rugby league heroes as Andrew Johns, Andy Farrell and the legendary former coach Jack Gibson, a fellow Australian.

There are currently nine referees on the full-time list — Ben Thaler, James Child, Chris Kendall, Liam Moore, Tom Grant, Marcus Griffiths, Jack Smith, Liam Rush and James Vella.

At the end of his first season on the grade 1 list in 2020, Vella was selected for that year’s panel of match officials for the Super League play-offs.

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