Ben Wood back at Oldham

Date published: Thursday, October 31, 2013

A PLAYER who left Oldham RL Club two years ago “under a cloud” has been reunited at Whitebank with his former Salford coaches Scott Naylor and Lee Spencer.

Tony Benson was Roughyeds’ coach in 2011 when big Ben Wood, then a strapping 21-year-old, arrived from Salford.

He had been at the Super League club since he was 15, having spent most of the next six years coached by either Naylor or Spencer.

A fast, mobile second-row forward, he scored six tries in 16 appearances for Roughyeds, including five in 10 league games, before leaving the club in mid-season and ultimately going back to his former junior club, Saddleworth Rangers.

At the end of a hugely impressive 2013 season in Australia, he returned to this country a fortnight ago and has since signed a one-year deal at Oldham after being given what the club describe as “a second chance”.

Said chairman Chris Hamilton: “When Ben was with us in 2011 he left under a cloud.

“By giving him a second chance we have placed a lot of trust in him. It goes without saying that we hope he respects that trust.

“We have reminded him of the ground rules, and the consequences of breaking them, and he has assured us that he has put the past behind him and that he is ready to put in the hard work that will enable him to fulfil his undoubted rugby potential.

“Scott (Naylor) and ‘Spanner’ (Spencer) have seen him grow up from a boy to a man and they believe they can get the best out of him.

“By re-signing him we have shown the club’s willingness to give him the opportunity to put things right and we hope that’s exactly what he will do.”

Playing this year for Freemantle Roosters, near Perth, Wood was selected for Western Australia in an inter-state tournament against Victoria, South Australia and Northern Territory, but excluding the ‘big’ rugby league states of New South Wales and Queensland.

On the strength of his eye-catching second-row performances at that level he was picked for the Australian Affiliated States rep squad and was one of 20 players to fly to Samoa for two games against the islanders as part of Samoa’s World Cup preparations.

Though mainly comprising of NRL players, the Samoan squad now competing in the World Cup includes five members of the Toa Residents’ squad who won selection on the strength of their performances against the tourists from Australia, of which Wood was one.

Samoa’s World Cup coach Matt Parish watched both games.

Said Wood: “It was a fantastic experience. It capped a good year for me Down Under. I had my head screwed on and I was determined to do well.

“I left Roughyeds last time for personal reasons, but I’ve had long talks with Chris (Hamilton), Scott and ‘Spanner’ and I know what’s expected of me. I’m up for it.

“I rang ‘Spanner’ as soon as I got back from Australia. He told me about the club’s aspirations for next season and that most of the lads from last season were staying.

“I was coached by Scott and ‘Spanner’ for a few years while I was a kid growing up. They know me better than anybody.

“They’ve got another big season ahead and I can’t wait to start working for them again.”