New boys give TB a headache

Date published: Thursday, February 23, 2012

OLDHAM RL new boys Danny Heaton and Neil Rigby have given coach Tony Benson an early-season headache.

They were two of four new pack signings in a plan to give Roughyeds more forward thrust, but their Whitebank futures are already in doubt with the start of the Championship One campaign still more than a fortnight away.

The ex-Swinton pair have not been training in recent weeks, forcing Benson to accept that he will be leading Roughyeds into arguably the club’s most important season for yearswithout two of the men who were to have figured prominently in his plans.

“They haven’t been making training so they can’t be considered for selection,” revealed the Oldham boss.

Heaton (30), formerly with Widnes, Halifax and Swinton, decided to kick-start his career with Oldham when he signed a one-year contract last autumn after a spell out of the game.

He said back then: “As a prop-forward I should now be at my strongest and most knowledgeable.”

Rigby (25), a second-row forward, also signed a one-year deal.

He said at the time: “Moving to Oldham (from Swinton) will give me the kick up the backside I need.”

The club say Rigby trained hard and conscientiously in the early days of pre-season work, but then fell away after work patterns in his full-time job made more demands on him and his time.

Said Benson: “He was coming on well and making good progress, but he was first told he would have to work longer hours in his full-time employment and then he was sent on a university course which coincided with the nights we trained.

“I’m not so sure about what has happened to Danny Heaton. I think he has also been extra busy at work, but to be honest I haven’t seen or heard enough of him to know what lies behind his absence.”

To add to Benson’s pack concerns, prop Luke Stenchion’s thumb injury is not clearing up as quickly as was hoped so he will have go back to the specialist.

Valu Bentley (ankle), Chris Murphy (shin), Paul Ballard (knee) and Mark McCully (knee) are also under treatment and at this stage their chances of being fit for Sunday’s Northern Rail Cup game against Dewsbury Rams at Whitebank (3pm) are slim.

On a brighter note backs Sean Robinson (hip) and Mark Brocklehurst (broken thumb) got through a full training session last night without further mishap.

Benson is also hopeful that John Gillam, Paul Smith and Paul Noone will be back in contention after missing the South Wales game because of work commitments.

Oldham hoped Whitehaven would come to Whitebank on Saturday week for a reserve-team friendly, but the Cumbrians have pulled out of the fixture because of an early-season injury pile-up.