Benson excited by talent in the 2011 squad

Date published: Thursday, January 20, 2011

OLDHAM RL Club coach Tony Benson has urged fans to get behind the Roughyeds in Sunday’s third and final pre-season friendly against Whitehaven at Whitebank (3pm kick off).

Preparing for his third season at Oldham, the New Zealander has reaffirmed his admiration for the club and its leader, chairman Chris Hamilton, and has given his newly-assembled class of 2011 a massive vote of confidence.

Benson’s Roughyeds have won 27 and drawn one of their 38 Co-operative Championship One games over the last two seasons and, under his tutelage, have twice got to within 80 minutes of promotion via the play-offs only to fail at the Grand Final hurdle.

The target in his third year is outright promotion — and while stopping short of making extravagant predictions before a tackle has been made in earnest Benson believes Roughyeds have the talent to be serious challengers in the race to finish top.

New signings include battle-hardened forwards Andy Isherwood, John Clough and Paul Noone and up-and-coming younger players in Liam Gilchrist, Alistair Williams, Michael Diveney, Ben Wood, Matthew Fogarty, Jack Bradbury and Tom Wood-Hulme.

Noone, the latest recruit, is expected to make his debut against Whitehaven in a squad which might also provide young backs Bradbury and Fogarty with the opportunity to represent their hometown team for the first time on home soil.

They played in last Saturday’s 36-10 defeat at Featherstone, but Benson says supporters should read “absolutely nothing” into that defeat.

He said: “Recruitment over the past few months has gone superbly well. We have a nice blend of youth and experience, and the young guys are coming along nicely. It’s the start of another season and I get a real buzz when I look around at the talent we have in the squad.

“The game at Featherstone wasn’t all about winning. Had it been we would have approached it differently. It was about looking at a lot of players, some of them for the first time, to determine how we can improve them individually and, in so doing, how we can get the best out of the squad.

“It wasn’t a question of looking to see if the new guys were good enough. We know they are good enough, otherwise they would’nt be at the club in the first place. But it was a chance to assess their strengths and weaknesses and to determine how we can make them even better players.

“We are developing a squad in every sense of the word. The object is to get as close as we can to a situation in which team changes can be made without any disruption whatsoever to how we play. That way you minimise the risk of blips.

“Games like the one at Featherstone have to be used with those objectives in mind. From the coaching point of view we were building for the season ahead — not chasing a result.”