Plenty of faith in the Young Ones

Date published: Tuesday, May 20, 2014
THE Oldham team that snatched a last-gasp win in the 31-30 thriller against York was the youngest to be fielded by Roughyeds for many years.

Since coach Scott Naylor arrived at Whitebank 18 months ago to start his first head coach’s job he has never been afraid to pin his faith in youth.
But never before has he sent such a fresh-faced team into battle as the one which kept intact this season’s unbeaten record at Whitebank thanks to Steven Nield’s winning try three minutes from the end.
For various reasons, senior players Jason Boults (30), Sam Gee (27) and Mark Hobson (27) were not included in the side to face York.
It resulted in a 17-man squad with an average age of 22, possessing three 20-year olds in centre Jon Ford and forwards Nathan Mason and George Tyson.
Eight of the 17 were 22 or under, with nobody older than 26-year-old winger Dale Bloomfield, who ran in a hat-trick of tries inside 27 minutes when Roughyeds were well on top early in the game.
Said Naylor: “Age is immaterial. What matters is ability and attitude. That applies to young players as well as older players.
“If a player’s good enough he’s old enough. I would never hold back a player because of his youth if he matches up to all other credentials.”
When he succeeded Tony Benson as Oldham boss in the autumn of 2012, Naylor appointed a right-hand man, Lee Spencer, who had spent all his coaching career in youth rugby.
And he quickly showed his allegiance to the Roughyeds’ youth policy that was already in place by plucking Phil Joy, Steven Nield, Danny Langtree and Kenny Hughes from the second team.
Among new signings that year  were youngsters Josh Crowley, Liam Thompson, Mo Agoro, Richard Lepori and, on long-term loan from Salford, Adam Files and Jon Ford.
The pattern has continued this season with the arrivals of 19-year-old centre Edwin Okanga-Ajwang and four forwards who are not much older — Paddy Mooney, Alex Davidson, Tyson and Mason.
Richard Joy (20) is the latest under-20s player to sign pro forms and others are understood to be making big impressions on the coaching staff.