Naylor demands the “extra mile”

Date published: Friday, June 20, 2014
HAVING seen his men go for 80 minutes against South Wales Scorpions without conceding a try, Scott Naylor will be demanding another massive defensive effort from Oldham at Gateshead on Sunday.
He will need no reminding that, unlike last year when they were rock solid on the road, his Roughyeds have lost two of their last three away games, leaking 38 points at Hunslet and 44 at Hemel.
In his programme notes for the next match against Scorpions he wrote: “Rugby League is the hardest team sport in the world, no matter what level you play at.
“If you aren’t mentally ready to do the hard work and give everything you have for your team than you’re in the wrong place.
“The biggest difference between Super League and other divisions lies in the attitude, desire and mental strength of the players.
“All rugby players can do the basic skills, but can they go that extra mile for their team mates when required to do so on the pitch ?
“The more players you have with qualities like that, the bigger chance you have of succeeding when it gets to the business end of the season.”
The response from his players was immediate and total. Their enthusiasm in defence and their willingness to roll up their sleeves and graft off the ball was so intense that the Welshmen never got a serious sniff of the Oldham line.
As Naylor was quick to point out, however, the challenge is for Roughyeds to play like that away from home as well, starting in the North-East against a new-look Thunder outfit that will pose a far more formidable threat than the Scorpions.
Gateshead on Sunday will bear little resemblance to the side hammered 52-16 at Whitebank in April.
A month ago they were bought out by Premiership rugby union club Newcastle Falcons, who are now their senior partners in Newcastle Rugby Ltd.
Almost immediately, funds were made available to Thunder to strengthen their squad — and their new owners stated publicly that their immediate aim was to steer the rugby league club into the play-offs this season and then on to promotion to the next level.
Said Newcastle Rugby chairman Semore Kurdi: “There is now a clear path through to Super League and that is our long-term goal, earning a place by growth on and off the field and by becoming a sustainable club.”
Thunder will stay at the Gateshead International Stadium for the rest of this season, but there is every chance that they will move to share the Falcons’ home at Kingston Park next year.
The buy-out will not affect their close links with Hull KR, for whom coach Stanley Gene works full time in much the same way that Hunslet boss Barry Eaton is on the Leeds Rhinos staff and Rochdale’s Ian Talbot is employed by St Helens.
Thunder lost four of their first five league games, but have changed things round significantly since they were able to bring in new players.
They have won four of their last six, including victories on the road at Hemel and at Oxford before they went down at York last time out.
Of the starting line-up hammered at Whitebank, only six players were still in the side last week — centre Joe Brown, winger Jacob Blades, half-back Matty Beharrell and forwards Ricky Hough, Sonny Esslemont and Jason Payne.
Newcomers included full-back Louis Sheriff and second-row man Joe Farrell (both on loan from Dewsbury), winger Lee Mapals (who started the season at Hunslet), centre Kris Welham from Hull KR and stand-off Jamie Rooney, once of Wakefield Trinity Wildcats fame.
Aged 34 now, Rooney played in 120 Super League games for Wildcats between 2003 and 2009, racking up 903 points from 60 tries, 321 goals and 21 drop goals.
He’s been signed to provide the nous and know-how, operating alongside a highly-rated 20-year-old in Hull KR’s Beharrell.
He was one of four dual-registered men from Craven Park in the side beaten at Oldham, but there were only three of similar status in last week’s line-up at York —- Welham, Beharrell and Esslemont.
Full-back Sheriff played eight times in Super League for Hull KR in 2011 and 2012 before signing for Redcliffe Dolphins in Queensland.
He returned to the UK this year, signed for Dewsbury and has been loaned out to Thunder to aid their push for the play-offs.
Thunder’s latest recruit is New Zealand-born half-back Jordan Meads (22), who began his career with Melbourne Storm while studying in the Australian city.
He moved back to New Zealand in 2011 to join Auckland-based NRL side Warriors and was man of the match for their reserves side in their Toyota Cup final of that year, kicking a golden point drop-goal winner two minutes into extra time.
He spent 2012 with Avignon in France and then returned to Australia where he has been playing until recently on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane.
He has still to make his Thunder debut and it could be on Sunday.