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Talk of the town, yes, but does it go further than that

We’ve already been billed as talk-of-the-town Oldham. But the fact that, of the eight ties in the next round of the Challenge Cup, our Sunday evening clash with derby rivals Swinton Lions on February 25 has again been hand-picked for streaming shows that not only are we doing something right, but that the powers-that-be at League HQ are sitting up and taking notice.

It was good to see so many Roughyeds fans up at Barrow and it was indeed a nice touch to see so many of them carrying and showing off those red balloons. No doubt many more watched us on the BBC, whose streaming figures suggest there were many people from all over Rugby League land tuning in, not just Barrow and Oldham enthusiasts.

Years ago we used to argue that TV wasn’t good because it encouraged fans to stay at home. Even now, some still take that view but the general feeling in the game nowadays is that we need all the projection we can get nationwide. Unwittingly, maybe, but in doing all his wonderful works for Rob Burrow and for the fight to beat motor-neurone disease, Sinny has undoubtedly put rugby league on the map.

Lower down the publicity chain, could you honestly put hand on heart and say you had heard of Hammersmith Hills Hoists, the team of nobodies from our capital city? I’ll bet you have now; such is the power of the press and the tele in taking Rugby League into our living rooms.

You can always say I’m biased, and no doubt I am, writes ROGER HALSTEAD, but has the town suffered in many respects from the loss of the Oldham Evening Chronicle? My view is that Rugby League at all levels seriously misses six-nights-a-week coverage (there was The Green Final as well don’t forget) and that’s to say nothing of Oldham Athletic, the Central Lancashire Cricket League, as it was back then, the Saddleworth Cricket League, again, as it was in the old days, and the striking coverage the Chron gave to amateur soccer, sailing at Dovestone, golf, rugby union, angling, local athletics, netball, fishing. . . I could go on.

I recall the good old days when sports fans would queue along Union Street at 5pm on a Saturday, waiting for the Green Final to come off the giant Press machines in the bowels of the Chron office and spurting out headlines, telling us if Oldham Rugby or Oldham Athletic had won, drawn or lost that day. Results would be in the box — stop press to most of you — and there was an exciting urgency about everything, matched only by what had gone on that afternoon at Watersheddings or at Boundary Park.

It’s a different world these days, of course. It’s a world of social media, of smart phones, of apps, iPlayer, YouTube, digital this and digital that.

Everything is instant. Gone are the days when old hacks like me would have to pick up a black handset from a cardboard box in the pavilion, plug it into a dodgy-looking socket in the Press Box and, with everything crossed, hope for the best. Then there were fixed time calls from the office with a copytaker standing by to type out my words of wisdom about the match as it actually happened.

It sounds romantic. In truth it was like doing a weekly wash before we had washing machines or going to the local baths for a dip because most houses didn’t have bathrooms. We embraced progress back then and we have to embrace the digital explosion right now.

Like it or lump it, TV games in our living rooms arehere to stay — and, as Oldham are doing with the appointment of George Riley as media consultant, it’s up to clubs to take advantage of the extra projection into the public eye.

Well done Oldham . . . trend-setters yet again.

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