First team preparation

Date published: Thursday, November 18, 2010

OLDHAM RL boss Tony Benson, a firm believer in pre-season prep work, wants two more warm-up games in addition to the Law Cup clash with derby rivals Rochdale Hornets.

Hornets come to the Whitebank Stadium on Sunday, January 2 (3pm), but that’s the only pre-season game Roughyeds have got pencilled in up to now.

“I’m hoping it will be the first of three,” said Benson. “Such games are an essential part of planning and preparing for the season. You’ve got to get your preparation right — it’s a must.”

Roughyeds had considered entertaining a Super League club at Whitebank at a big event to formally and officially declare the ground open as the club’s new home, but it remains to be seen whether that will happen.

Either way, Benson has already consigned last season to the record books and he will start his 2011 build-up with a new squad — and a blank team sheet.

New signings include vastly-experienced forward Andy Isherwood and three young players brought up and developed by Super League clubs in prop Liam Gilchrist (St Helens), back-rower Ben Wood (Salford City Reds) and centre Jack Bradbury (St Helens).

His team to take on Hornets will be broadly based on what he has seen up to then in pre-season training, which starts in earnest at a judo club in Rochdale on Saturday following Tuesday night’s introductory meeting of coaching staff and players at Whitebank.

Benson intends to put a lot of emphasis on tackling technique and ground work, but not at the expense of core skills, strength and general conditioning.

Players have been working for a few weeks already on individual weights programmes, devised by new assistant coach Martin Roden. They will be tested soon and then set new targets.

Benson would hope to use the next two warm-up games to look at different combinations and different partnerships — thus making sure everyone in the squad is given a run-out — before the start of the Northern Rail Cup.

The cup matches will also form part of the overall plan for Roughyeds to hit the ground running when Co-operative Championship One kicks in, just as they did last season when Benson’s boys won their first seven league games.

“We had a good meeting on Tuesday,” he said, “and, after their off-season break, the players were itching to get started again. We’ll be training at Rochdale judo club and, on week nights, at a couple of venues in Middleton as well as at Whitebank.

“The squad is coming together nicely. We have signed quality — and I would like to think we’ll be announcing more signings soon.”