Paul Ashton is back

Date published: Thursday, February 25, 2010

Well-known local half-back Paul Ashton is back on the Oldham RL scene . . . three years after leaving the Roughyeds.

Now aged 30, the former Halifax, Rochdale, Oldham and Saddleworth Rangers scrum-half or stand-off is helping Oldham’s reserve team coach John Hough with a view to playing a similar role at the Roughyeds to that performed so successfully by John’s cousin Chris at the back end of last season.

Chris Hough (28) and Ashton have similar backgrounds in both the amateur and professional branches of the sport and both are vastly-experienced goalkicking half-backs with a penchant for play-making and tactical kicking.

Chris did a fine job as senior citizen of a young Roughyeds reserve team last season, providing essential midfield maturity, and he left a void when he departed to join the coaching staff at Hornets RL.

“Paul has been coming down to training,” said Roughyeds chairman Chris Hamilton, “with a view to stepping into Chris’s shoes. The idea is that he will effectively be doing an assistant coach’s job while playing in the reserves at the same time, just like Houghie did last year.

“He will be working specifically with the backs and using his experience to bring along the young lads and to guide them along both on and off the field.”

All being well, Ashton will be in the reserves for the first time at Keighley Cougars next Thursday night (8.00pm kick off) in a pre-season warm-up match.

Among the young players likely to be on show are first-year professionals such as Michael Ward, Austen Barrowclough, Jacob Kinney, Ross Coates and Ben Marsden as well as former Harlequins forward Jack Graves.

Several other local youngsters played in the side that represented Roughyeds in the pre-season Law Cup game with Hornets at Castleton and some of those may also be invited back for another run-out.

Since they were formed for the 2008 season under the tutelage of John Hough, the reserves have produced three players who are this year in Tony Benson’s senior 25-man squad for the first time — Scott Mansfield, Chris Clarke and Ben Heaton.

Second-row man Clarke and the versatile Heaton, who can play full-back, centre, wing or loose-forward, have been first-team regulars during the Northern Rail Cup games and have coped comfortably with the step up to senior rugby.

“Scott, Chris and Ben are all coming along very nicely indeed,” said John, “and that is very pleasing to see for everyone associated with the reserves.

“We are now looking forward eagerly to our forthcoming season which gets underway at Keighley next Thursday night.”

There will be a team bonding session for the reserves at Manchester Paint-Ball Arena on Wednesday, March 24.