Oldham team updates for Featherstone game

Date published: Friday, January 14, 2011

DANNY Whitmore is back in the Oldham RL squad at Featherstone tomorrow (Sat) as the battle to win the Roughyeds’ hooking job starts in earnest.

Four candidates will be chasing two spots in the season that stretches ahead — one in the starting line-up, the other on the bench.

Martin Roden, as club captain, led the team out in each of its 28 games last season and had first crack at the key No 9 job every time with Whitmore used as his back-up off the bench in nearly every game.

Scott Mansfield, who started as hooker in the Law Cup win over Rochdale, will also be pushing for the job this year, as will new signing John Clough, who made a big impression when substituting for Mansfield against the Hornets.

Roden, at 30 the quartet’s senior citizen, has been upgraded to assistant coach. As conditioner, he is also responsible for the squad’s fitness and stamina.

He is still registered as a player, but the captain’s job for 2011 has gone to his cousin, Neil Roden, and Martin will again be sidelined tomorrow, standing side-by-side with head coach Tony Benson as he did in the Law Cup game.

Whitmore wasn’t available for that match, but his 2011 campaign starts at Featherstone where both he and Mansfield are expected to be on the bench with Clough in the starting line-up for the first time.

Said Benson: “We’ve four hookers, so that’s a lot of competition for places. The boys know that, and they know what they need to do.”

Local lad Whitmore (21), set for his second season with his hometown club, has worked exceptionally hard over the two months of pre-season training.

“He’s had one helluva pre-season,” added Benson, “and he goes into the Featherstone game as one of the fittest and strongest members of the squad.”

Benson has also been impressed with the pre-season work of prop Luke Sutton, whom he is fully expecting to benefit from all his prep work as the season unfolds.

Three who played against Rochdale — Mark Brocklehurst, Jamie Knight and Valu Bentley — are not involved in this second of three warm-up games, which kicks off at the Bigfellas Stadium at 5.30pm.

Coming into a bigger squad — there might be as many as eight substitutes — are Matthew Fogarty, Jack Bradbury, John Gillam, Chris Clarke, Whitmore and Matty Ashe.

A reshaped threequarter line will include a brand-new centre partnership comprising of 18-year-old Fogarty and 20-year-old Bradbury with Gillam back in his usual place on the left wing.

OLDHAM: Heaton; Onyango, Fogarty, Bradbury, Gillam; N Roden, Diveney; Boults, Clough, Gilchrist, Isherwood, Wood, Clarke. Subs: Sutton, Wood-Hulme, Ellison, Walker, Whitmore, Ashe, Mansfield, Williams.

Said Benson: “In a game like this the performance is more important than the result. I will be looking particularly at how individuals shape and how different combinations work.

“I’ll be watching Matthew Fogarty and Jack Bradbury in match action for the first time, while Michael Diveney will be playing only his second game at this level, as will Liam Gilchrist, Ben Wood, Tom Wood-Hulme and Alistair Williams.

“It will be interesting to see how John Clough goes as starting hooker; how Chris Clarke performs at loose-forward; and how various combinations work out when we start making replacements during the game.”

Featherstone have won each of their two pre-season games so far, beating Hunslet Hawks 38-16 and Gateshead Thunder 36-22.

They are expected to field a similar squad to the one that beat Gateshead which was a mix of first-team squad members and reserves.