Hope to lead from the front — ScottDate published: Friday, October 30, 2015
Will Hope, currently starring for Ireland in the European Championship, will play a lead role for promoted Oldham next season, predicts coach Scott Naylor.
Back-row forward Hope (22) was out of the sport and a free agent when Naylor lured him to Whitebank in a deadline-day signing last July.
Four weeks and a dozen training sessions later he was named at loose-forward against Swinton Lions in the final home game of the regular season as Roughyeds prepared to put the finishing touches to their promotion challenge.
It was a baptism of fire for the ex-Salford man, who kept his place in the side that lifted the League Leaders’ Shield at Oxford and eight days later smashed Keighley Cougars at Whitebank in the Promotion Final to lift the championship trophy and to move up in the world.
Hope has now repaid Naylor for rescuing his career and bringing him in from the cold by signing a new one-year contract.
Said the Oldham boss: “He was outstanding in our last three games and now we’ve got him for all next season I expect him to be one of our top lads in the Championship and certainly one of our leaders on the field.
“He lost his way a little bit at Salford and he had been out of the game for quite a while when we got him down to Whitebank towards the end of last season.
“He immediately fitted in and looked comfortable. It probably helped that he found himself in the company of many of the boys he knew from Salford days.
“If he can play as well as he did in our last three games after being out of the sport for nearly a year, I can’t wait to see him in action when he has had a full pre-season with us.”
Sheffield and Ireland coach Mark Aston, who knew Hope well from his 12-game stint on loan with the Eagles in 2014, was so impressed with his form in the Promotion Final that he recalled him to the Ireland squad.
And in the last fortnight the Oldham player has enhanced his reputation even further by winning unofficial Irish man-of-the-match awards in a defeat against France in Albi and a 24-22 win against Scotland, captained by Huddersfield Giants star Danny Brough, in Galashiels.
If they beat Wales in Dublin and other results go their way, Aston’s men could win the tournament.
Said Hope: “I’m enjoying my rugby again and that’s down to Scott (Naylor) inviting me down to see what was happening at Oldham.
“I absolutely loved the last few weeks of last season. Half the Oldham team were in Salford’s under-18s when I was there and it was like old times to be back with them and to be coached by Scott and ‘Spanner’ (Lee Spencer).
“We’re all good mates, and that’s part of Oldham’s strength.
“When I was at Sheffield on loan, Tom Ashton, Gareth Owen and Jon Ford were also there, so between us we’ve a few Championship games already under our belts.
“We’re a young team, but by the time the squad is finalised I’m sure we’ll be capable of causing one or two upsets.
“We’ve also got a great coaching staff — a big factor in my decision to sign for next season.
“It’s a done deal and I’m eagerly looking forward to the challenge.”