‘Massive challenge awaits us’ — ScottDate published: Thursday, May 14, 2015
SCOTT Naylor has described it as a “massive challenge” . . . and rival coach Stanley Gene says Newcastle’s top-three clash at Whitebank on Sunday (3pm) will be a benchmark for a Thunder side with big backers and big ambition.
Both teams have won five of their first six League One games, Thunder’s only defeat a home loss to unbeaten league leaders Keighley Cougars.
In their first full season since taken over by Newcastle Rugby Ltd, owners of rugby union outfit Newcastle Falcons, Thunder’s wins have included Barrow at home and Rochdale and North Wales Crusaders on their travels.
Oldham, whose only defeat was at Barrow last time out, also won at Rochdale and on Sunday they will be out to preserve an unbeaten league record at Whitebank which stretches back more than two years.
Said Naylor: “I know Stanley (Gene) well. He’s a good coach and a good bloke and he gets his lads well organised and fired up. He gets the best out of them.
“They’ve made some good signings this year and Sunday’s game is going to be as tough as they come in this division.
“I watched Thunder at Swinton in the iPro Sport Cup semi-final and although they lost they did a lot of things extremely well.
“From what I can gather they’ve been playing a lot better since that semi-final so it’s going to be a massive challenge for us.
“I’m hoping the disappointment of losing our first league game at Barrow will make the lads determined not to suffer another setback.”
Former Bradford and Hull KR star Gene, one of the best and most popular players ever to come out of Papua New Guinea, said his side’s 58-12 win at Hemel last weekend was one of Thunder’s best performances of the season.
It was achieved without injured PNG trio Mark Mexico, Charlie Wabo and Jason Tali, but Wabo and Tali have a chance of playing at Whitebank.
Said Gene: “Oldham are tough, physical and always difficult to beat at home. They’re coached well too.
“They will be up near the top at the end of the year, so it’s a game I’m looking at as a benchmark to see where we’re up to in the pecking order.”