Naylor hopes to be at strength

Date published: Thursday, April 17, 2014
LIAM Thompson apart, Scott Naylor hopes to field his strongest Oldham side for weeks in what promises to be a cracking game at Hunslet Hawks.
Thompson, Adam Files and David Cookson have been out injured for more than a month, but Naylor is hopeful that hooker Files and centre Cookson will be ‘sacked’ by the club’s medical staff at tonight’s training session.
That being the case, the Oldham boss will be picking from 22 of his 23 senior-squad players for the first time since the opening day of the season on March 2.
He is expected to have at his disposal the 17 who put ten tries on Gateshead Thunder last Sunday, plus Paddy Mooney, Files, Cookson, Steven Nield and Edwin Okanga-Ajwang, who was 18th man.
Said Naylor: “I’m going to have serious options and that’s good — it’s what I need.
“It’s not what the players like because inevitably it means some of them are going to be disappointed. But there’s nothing I can do about that, I can only go with 17.
“I’ve got four good hookers, one of whom can also play at centre and another who has played a significant number of times at half-back.
“I’ve also got five good props, so I’ve plenty to think about in going for the side which I think will be best suited to taking on Hunslet.
“Do I go for my best defensive side, my strongest attacking team or a mix of both ? Those are issues I have to address in picking the side.”
This eagerly-awaited thumbs-up on players like Files and Cookson will hopefully be timed to perfection, given that the Good Friday showdown at the South Leeds Stadium (2pm kick off) sees a top-of-the-table clash between two of the three strongest teams in Kingstone Press Championship One.
You can wager your last cent on the one team to win promotion via the play-offs coming from the strongly-fancied triumvirate of Oldham, Hunslet or York, the Yorkshire duo having strengthened significantly since being relegated from the Championship at the end of last season.
Of these three, only Naylor’s men remain unbeaten, but they are in second place behind the high-scoring Hawks with a game in hand.
The early leaders are averaging 40 points a game and boast the division’s top try scorer in prop James Houston and two of the leading goals and points scorers in scrum-half Danny Ansell and former Oldham winger Andy Ballard.
They’ve been beaten only once — 28-26 at home to York on March 9 — and are on a roll and going in search of their sixth win in a row.
Houston’s fellow prop Luke Stenchion, another who used to play for Oldham, will be especially keen to make an impact in his 150th career appearance.
In total, a large squad of 29 includes four former Roughyeds in Ballard, Stenchion and the half-back brothers James and Thomas Coyle.
Among new signings this season are Ballard from Swinton Lions, Stenchion from York and several from Super League clubs, among them Casey Canterbury from Castleford Tigers, Matthew Cook from Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and Liam Hood of Leeds Rhinos.
Vastly experienced centre Danny Maun from Batley Bulldogs has also moved across the M62.
Hawks have close links with Leeds Rhinos, so much so that coach Barry Eaton has a part-time role as an assistant to Rhinos boss Brian McDermott.
In a recent game against London Skolars they played Rhinos prop Ryan Bailey, a full England international, on dual registration.
Interestingly, Hawks now list Bailey on the club website as a member of their first-team squad.
Said Eaton, who has signed a two-year extension to his contract: “Thomas Coyle was on a Super League deal only 18 months ago, but he was happy to sign for us and that’s testament to the things we are trying to do in order to move the club forward.”
Hunslet (from): Kain, Mapals, Watson, Maun, Akadaire, J Coyle, Ansell, Houston, March, Stenchion, Broughton, Oakes, Grimshaw, Reed, Lyon, Canterbury, Cook, Ballard, Brickwood, Clarke, T Coyle.
Oldham (from): Whitehead, Agoro, Wood, Gee, Bloomfield, Palfrey, Robinson, Joy, Whitmore, Boults, Crowley, Langtree, Hobson, Hughes, Davidson, Tyson, Ward, Mooney, Files, Okanga-Ajwang, Nield, Cookson