Gilchrist back from GB squad

Date published: Wednesday, July 20, 2011

PROP Liam Gilchrist will be back with Oldham RL Club this week after playing a key role for Great Britain Students in their record-breaking and undefeated three-match series against Australia in Queensland.

The 22-year-old former St Helens front-rower returns to Roughyeds training tomorrow night to strengthen an engine room that has lost the services of Dave Ellison, Chris Clarke and Bruce Johnson through injury.

Gilchrist’s last game for Oldham was in the 18-16 defeat at Swinton seven weeks ago, one of the Roughyeds’ best displays of the season. He hurt an ankle at The Willows and shortly afterwards, by prior arrangement with the club, he left for Australia with GB Students.

“I had the time of my life on tour,” he said, “but I’ve come back fitter than when I went — no ankle problems now — and I can’t wait to get to work for Oldham again at a time when the club is battling to get into the play-offs and then do well in them.”

A fully-fit Gilchrist will provide coach Tony Benson with five props — the experienced trio of Jason Boults, Luke Sutton and Luke Stenchion plus back-up from two comparative rookies in Tom Wood-Hulme and the man who played in two of the three Students’ Test matches against the Aussies.

He was back home in Billinge, near St Helens, over the weekend and he will be in contention to return to club action either in the Reserves against Whitehaven on Saturday (2.30) or the senior side against Keighley Cougars on Sunday (3pm), both at Whitebank.

The British boys won the series, dubbed the ‘Academic Ashes’, by drawing the first game 20-20, winning the second game 10-4, both in Brisbane, and then storming to a stunning 24-10 triumph in the third game in Cairns.

It was the first time GB Students had ever won an international in Australia, let alone return undefeated from a three-match series, and it was the first time they had lifted the trophy since they were successful in England 11 years ago.

Gilchrist, representing the University of Central Lancashire at Preston, where he studies fine art, was a starting prop in the first and third Tests, playing alongside two Oldham-born colleagues in stand-off and goalkicker Nigel Scott and hooker Jonny Horton, both of Leeds Met.

“We had 25 players in the party,” he said, “and only one forward played in all three Tests.. I thought I did pretty well to start in two of them. We felt we had the beating of the Aussies after the first game because our defence was fantastic thanks to the great job done by our defence coach, Clive Griffiths.

“We also had an advantage at half-back, where Nigel Scott’s kicking game was crucial, and at hooker where Jonny Horton was awesome.

“I’ll never forget the celebrations at the end of the third Test. We were shattered and for a few seconds there was an eerie silence. Then all hell broke loose. Our coaches, backroom staff and non-playing squad members raced on to the pitch to congratulate us.

“There were hugs, back-slaps and handshakes and somebody went round emptying the ice buckets over the coaches. It was a fantastic feeling. Celebrations went on long into the night.”

Richard Lewis, chairman of the RFL, offered congratulations on behalf of the sport’s governing body in this country.

“Winning any Test series is a great achievement,” he said, “but to beat the Aussies in Australia and to come home undefeated is terrific. I would like to congratulate all the players and management for providing such tremendous performances over the last few weeks.”

*Formed a year ago, the Roughyeds’ Supporters Association will celebrate their first anniversary with a quiz night at Whitebank on Thursday (8pm). Cost per person is £1, maximum of six per team. For more information or to join ORSA ring Paul Whalley on 07796631192.