New look Oldham side

Date published: Wednesday, December 28, 2011

OLDHAM RL fans will get their first look at the club’s new signings in the Law Cup clash with Rochdale Hornets at Whitebank on January 2.

Coach Tony Benson plans to bring in the new year by showcasing all his new players apart from the club’s latest recruit, full-back Chris Murphy.

Props Danny Heaton and Bruce Johnson and second-row pair Paul Smith and Neil Rigby are being lined up for debuts alongside a trio of first-timers from last season’s reserve team, Danny Langtree, David Cookson and Alex Thompson.

“All the new guys have done well over the past few weeks in training,” said Benson, “and now I can get an early look at them in a game.

“Games like the Law Cup fixture have a double purpose — they allow me and the coaching staff to run the rule over the players, but they also give the players an early opportunity to send out a message to us.

“There is going to be lot of competition for places in 2012, particularly in the forwards, and everyone is fully aware of that.

“I want to look at the younger players who have stepped up from the reserves as well as the experienced men we have brought in.”

They don’t come much more experienced than 30-year-old Heaton, 27-year-old Johnson and 34-year-old Smith, who replaces the 31-year-old Roden cousins, Neil and Martin, as the club’s new senior citizen.

At the other end of the age scale, much will be expected in a crucial season of 19-year-old centre Matthew Fogarty and 23-year-old half-back Jamie Dallimore, who looks set to be asked to shoulder a lot of responsibility for guiding the side around the pitch.

Dallimore has already shown that he can perform well at first-team level, but Langtree, Cookson and Thompson have still to be tested, although back-row forward Thompson’s CV includes a smattering of Super League experience in his Warrington days.

Another young player who will need to prove himself at first-team level is 22-year-old Murphy, the latest rookie to arrive at the club and, like Thompson, a product of the Warrington stable.

He won’t play against Rochdale because he still needs more time to fully recover from a broken ankle and because he had already booked a holiday over New Year before he chose the Roughyeds as the club at which he desired to rebuild his fledgling career.

While enough of a realist to acknowledge that Murphy has a big step to take if he is to command the full-back job on a regular basis, Benson is suitably impressed by what he has seen of the lad in his three weeks at the club.

“He’s sharp, and in good shape,” said the Oldham boss. “He has all the skills of somebody who has gone through the system at a Super League club.

“He has quickly gelled with the rest of the lads and all the reports we have had of him are good — as a player, a person and as a young man with the ability and attitude to make progress in the sport.

“As far as team selection is concerned he will go into the mix with everyone else.

“In every case, and in every position, the best man for the job will get it.

“He has backed himself to achieve that in terms of the full-back job and that’s a good, positive sign too.”

Speaking in more general terms about the squad and its prospects for the new season, Benson said he was “more than happy” with the progress that had been made since the squad assembled for pre-season training early last month.

He went on: “The comparatively good weather has helped, while use of the facilities at Hopwood Hall has been invaluable.

“After training for so long with nothing at the end of it, the players are itching now to get out on the pitch and have a game.

“A lot of the training has been exceptionally tough. We look at how players react to that and I have to say they have all come through with flying colours.

“We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but our first competitive game isn’t until February 12 so time is on our side.”

On behalf of everyone at the club Benson and the players wish all supporters and sponsors a joyful Christmas and a happy New Year.