Liku, Hope boost squad for final pushDate published: Monday, July 27, 2015
NEW signings Elliot Liku and Will Hope will provide in-form League One leaders Oldham with a squad of 23 players for the final promotion push.
Prop Liku (19), from Leigh Centurions, and back-row man Hope (22), who was unattached after several years at Salford, became Oldham players on signing deadline day, the Hope deal going through only minutes before shutdown.
Neither played in the “awesome” (chairman Chris Hamilton’s description) 23-6 win at North Wales Crusaders, but they will join up with the Roughyeds for their first training session tomorrow night.
Liku, whose father Tau played for Tonga in the 1995 World Cup and spent several seasons with Leigh in the 1990s, is here on loan to the end of the season.
Hope, whom Roughyeds boss Scott Naylor, has been chasing for several months, has come out of self-imposed rugby league exile to sign as a fully-fledged Oldham player, also to the end of the season initially.
Partner club Huddersfield Giants have recalled their loan and dual-reg players due to a large injury list, but Oldham believe they are adequately covered for the run-in following the recent captures of Richard Lepori and Jon Ford, the anticipated return from injury of Tom Ashton and the latest signings of Liku and Hope.
Steve Nield is waiting for knee surgery and has accepted that he will not play again this season.
With the signing drawbridge having gone up, Naylor has 20 players of his own available to him, plus Ford (Salford), Liku (Leigh) and David Hewitt (St Helens), who are on loan.
Forwards: Crowley, Langtree, Hughes, Ward, P Joy, R Joy, Files, Gee, Thompson, Neal, Owen, Liku, Hope.
Backs: Roper, Palfrey, Clay, Tyson, Holmes, Dempsey, Ford, Ashton, Hewitt, Lepori.
The 17 on duty in Wrexham came through relatively unscathed and Naylor expects to be picking from strength when he selects his side for Sunday’s big Whitebank clash (3pm) between leaders Oldham and second-placed Keighley Cougars.
Cougars are two points behind with a game in hand, so an Oldham win on a ground where they rarely lose would put Naylor’s men firmly in the driving seat for finishing as league leaders.
Roughyeds will be expecting their biggest crowd of the season, perhaps nudging into four figures.
Commenting on the win in Wales, chairman Hamilton said: “We did our best to keep Crusaders in it due to all the penalties we conceded, but overall it was an awesome performance, both physically and mentally.
“There is a strong self-belief within the club and this latest win sets us up nicely for the clash with Keighley at Whitebank on Sunday.”