BRUCE Johnson signs up for Roughyeds

Date published: Wednesday, October 26, 2011

BRUCE Johnson did enough in four Oldham RL reserve-team games last season to earn a new deal . . . and a chance to jump the queue in the props’ pecking order.

Of the EIGHT front-row forwards Roughyeds now have under contract for 2012, 27-year-old Johnson ranks alongside Danny Heaton (30), Jason Boults (28), Dave Ellison (29) and Luke Stenchion (25) as the most experienced.

Like new-boy Heaton, however, Johnson has still to make his senior Oldham debut after coming to the club last June with great expectations only to severely damage a finger while playing for the trophy-winning under-23s.

In that respect, he is another new addition to coach Tony Benson’s first-team squad alongside Heaton and second-row pair Paul Smith and Neil Rigby.

He played three times for John Hough’s men before he was hurt, helping them to beat Keighley Cougars, Halifax and Sheffield Eagles, but he was then out for nearly three months before he returned to play a lead role in the reserve team’s stirring 46-22 win at Widnes in the play-off semi-final.

“I dislocated a finger in two places against Sheffield,” he recalled, “and I couldn’t bend it or make a fist. It took ages to heal and it cost me first-team opportunities, but I’ve got full movement in it now and I’m looking to start 2012 injury free and with some points to prove.

“I was plagued with injury last year, but with more luck this time around I want to impress Roughyeds supporters and show them what I can do at first-team level.

“I’ve re-signed for one year only, like most of the other lads, so I have a lot to prove in little time.”

Big, strong and aggressive, Johnson knows his way around Championship One rugby, having been a front-line prop at Swinton for five seasons before he came to Oldham last summer.

He signed for St Helens as a boy, spent four years at Knowsley Road, and then had a season at Widnes before signing for the Lions, for whom he played more than 100 senior games.

Said Benson: “Bruce had been out of the game for a while before we signed him last summer, so he needed some reserve-team games to prepare him for the big job that lay ahead.

“He was desperately unlucky to be injured just before he was due to step up to the first team at Gateshead at the end of June.

“I’m very pleased to have him on board again. Hopefully, he will have better luck in 2012 than he had in 2011.

“He has a big-volume game in which he gets through loads of tackling.

“On attack, he’ll take the ball up all day and get in a good, quick play-the-ball.”