Long-serving ‘Wardie’ back for moreDate published: Thursday, October 8, 2015
MICHAEL Ward, Oldham’s longest-serving player and still only 24, is the latest Roughyeds man to throw his cap into the ring for 2016.
His bright-red scrum-cap will again be a beacon for powerful, tackle-busting running in the Championship next season, as it has been in 70 of the 77 Oldham games in all competitions since Scott Naylor succeeded Tony Benson as boss at the start of the 2013 season.
Used by Naylor as an impact prop coming off the bench, Ward has signed a new one-year contract to extend his stay at his home-town club, the only professional outfit he has ever played for.
He has, in fact, made more senior appearances in Oldham colours — 94 — than any other player currently at the club, having made his debut as a 20-year-old in a 46-24 home win against Doncaster on May 1, 2011.
By the time Naylor arrived on the Whitebank scene, he was established as a first-team regular at centre or in the second-row.
The new boss quickly saw his potential as a prop with power and pace, to come off the bench and drive hard down the middle, and it was in that role that he starred in last season’s promotion-winning side.
Naylor said it was his best campaign by far and that was down to his own hard work, starting way back last November during the pre-season slog.
Added the Roughyeds boss: “He was always decent with his hands, a throwback to his days as a centre, and he was always a tough runner, hard to stop. But the quality of his all-round game increased significantly this time round and that was due to all the extra work he put into his preparation.
“He played at a higher level than he had previously and he was also able to enjoy longer spells on the field and in the thick of the action.
“In the Championship he’ll be playing with and against better players, but I see no reason at all why he can’t kick on, embrace the higher standard of play, and be just as effective for us as he was last season.”
In a promotion season that produced two trophies, Ward figured in 25 of the 28 games, scoring ten tries, more than any other prop.
Of all the forwards, only second-rowers Josh Crowley and Danny Langtree, each with 13, scored more.
Said Ward, who’s been at the club since he was a 16-year-old winger in the reserves: “We enjoyed a fantastic season that made up for all our earlier disappointments. We’ve been striving for promotion for a long time and when we finally got there it was all the sweeter for the waiting.
“We’re all looking forward to having a go at he higher level.”