Fielding three teams in the coming rugby league season

Date published: Wednesday, November 23, 2011

DESPITE the grim financial climate, Oldham will continue to buck the trend by fielding three teams in the coming rugby league season.

The RFL demand to know by Friday which Championship and Championship One clubs will be running reserve and/or extended scholarship squads in 2012 and Roughyeds will be ticking both boxes.

“We will be one of the few clubs running a reserve team,” said Roughyeds chairman Chris Hamilton, who fears there may be even fewer Championship One clubs with a second team this year than there were last.

In 2011 only Oldham, Whitehaven and Keighley from the sport’s ten-club third tier operated in the Reserves Championship, and the Cumbrians have since pulled out because they want to concentrate all their energies and financial resources on winning promotion to the Championship.

They say it costs them £25,000 to run a second team — money they can’t afford to spend on an under-23s side because of more pressing needs.

Added the Oldham chairman: “We will possibly be the only club in Championship One, or maybe one of two, to have a second team.

“In the current financial climate, that surely underlines our commitment to youth and, when linked to our extended scholarship involvement, to a policy of bringing our own players through into the senior side.

“It’s a policy that has worked well for us in the past and as a club we are committed to working hard from the bottom up so that it will continue to flourish for us in the future.

“Of all people, we know what it costs to run three teams, but I think it’s sad that a lot of clubs are looking only at their first teams and are failing to look at the wider and more comprehensive picture.

“Whitehaven, for instance, won the reserve championship’s grand final in 2010 — a year before we won it — and, like us, they have had a few players who have successfully made the transition from reserves to first team.”

Oldham’s new reserve-team boss Paul Ashton, meanwhile, has talked to the players as a group for the first time since he succeeded John Hough, who has moved to Huddersfield Giants to work with their under-20s side.

At a pre-season meeting Ashton said the purpose of a reserve side was to produce players for the first team and anything on top of that, like winning a grand final, was a bonus

Training for the second team begins on Saturday at the Hunt Lane track in Chadderton and it will continue on Saturdays and on Tuesday evenings at the same venue for the foreseeable future.

Said Ashton: “Most of the players from last year are back with us and although we’ve lost four or five to the first team we should be all right, especially if we can do a little bit of recruiting.

“I’m hoping to arrange some pre-season friendlies, but we can’t do anything yet until we know how many teams will be in the competition and when it starts.”