More help needed

Date published: Tuesday, April 20, 2010

OLDHAM Rugby League Club are battling against the clock in order to get Whitebank Stadium ready for when York City Knights come to town on Sunday, May 9.

Anxious club officials have again appealed to fans for help . . . and coach Tony Benson has warned that if essential work is not completed in time it will  be a “devastating” financial blow.

Four out-of-town home games this season, all at Sedgley Park, Whitefield, have produced fewer than 2,000 fans in total and an average per match of 498. Three of them were on Mondays and the one Sunday game was against Welsh amateurs Blackwood Bulldogs in the Carnegie Challenge Cup.

The club made nothing out of the Challenge Cup — beaten at Hunslet last Sunday and watched by only 509 — and it is banking on much bigger crowds when it can stage home  games at its new ground in Limehurst Village.

Of the ten home league games, the first against Workington was played at Sedgley Park on Easter Monday and the second against Gateshead Thunder will be staged at the same venue this Saturday evening.

That leaves eight to be staged at Whitebank, hopefully starting with the visit of York on May 9.

Said Benson: “It is essential we are in our new home for that match but unless we get more helpers quickly there is a danger it won’t happen and that would be a serious blow to the club.

“We are relying on fans but so far it has been the same few every time and we need more help.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm among supporters. Hundreds of them can’t wait to see the team run out at Whitebank, but it needs to be reflected in the numbers who are prepared to roll up their sleeves.”

Benson coached the team on Saturday and then dashed straight to Warrington’s old ground at Wilderspool where he and scrum-half Matty Ashe helped to load 350 seats on to a lorry for delivery to Whitebank.

Six Oldham fans had dismantled them the day before from high up in the main stand — an operation that lasted five hours.

Back at Whitebank, new main gates are being fitted; large areas are being cleared of rubble and undergrowth to create car park space; a fence down the top side of the pitch, but inside the complex, is being moved back three metres; and the whole ground is being painted.

One volunteer said: “The impossible we do at once, miracles take a little longer. But I appeal to fellow fans to join us — the camaraderie is second to none.”

Another, Sam Kershaw of Daisy Nook, has taken a week off work to do his labour of love and has designed two promotional posters called ‘New Dawn’ which have been adopted by the club and posted on the Roughyeds’ website.

Said 22-year-old Sam, the team’s mascot in the 1994-95 season: “If Whitebank can be anything like as atmospheric as Watersheddings — and I’m sure it will be — fans will be in for a treat after 13 years travelling all over the place.”

Work at the ground is done seven days a week and most evenings, but fans wanting to help are advised to ring the club first on 0161 628 3677.