“Pressure on Hunslet” …..Naylor

Date published: Friday, October 3, 2014
SCOTT Naylor insists that all the pressure is on Hunslet in Sunday’s televised Kingstone Press Championship One Grand Final at Headingley.
Fans may see it differently, but as far as Naylor and his players are concerned they have no reason to be intimidated by Oldham’s Grand Final record of five defeats in seven years.
Of the present side only Jason Boults played in any of the setbacks before last year’s loss to Rochdale and neither Naylor nor any of the other players were at the club when Roughyeds were beaten in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
The team has even changed significantly from last year when Naylor’s men went into the big game at Leigh Sports Village without Steven Nield, Adam Clay, Steve Roper, who played for Rochdale, Gareth Owen, George Tyson and Nathan Mason.
Roper’s arrival in mid-season and Owen’s recruitment on loan seven games ago, producing six wins, have improved the side significantly in key, pivotal positions.
Said Naylor: “We learned a lot in last year’s Grand Final defeat, and we are all the better for it.
“Whatever the bookies might say, Hunslet have got to be favourites because they’ve got Super League and Championship players in their team and they’ve invested significantly in their bid to win promotion at the first attempt.
“From day one, everybody outside Oldham thought York or Hunslet would go straight back up, so all the pressure and all the weight of expectation is on them.”
Boults is in line to make his 250th career appearance, having played 57 times for Halifax and 192 times for Oldham.
Naylor will pick from a 23-man squad and he says he hasn’t ruled out the odd change, although he is expected to go with a similar side to the one which excelled in play-off wins at Hunslet and York.
Hunslet coach Barry Eaton must decide whether to stick with the side that won at York or take a gamble and introduce Luke Hardbottle, who recently returned from playing in Australia.
What’s the Hunslet view of Oldham ?
Hooker Liam Hood, who scored two tries in the win at York, said: “They are a strong team with key players who push hard down the middle, so we’ll be keeping an eye on that department.
“I’ll be looking for our props to stay on their feet and get in quick play-the-balls, which will then allow me to do things from dummy half.”
As for Oldham, Naylor is working hard on playing down the big-match hype and keeping the dressing room free of nerves and tension.
Said full-back Nield: “Scott is keen to play it cool. He doesn’t want us to get ahead of ourselves. He has played in loads of finals and the advice he is giving us is priceless.”
* Match tickets are on sale from Whitebank between 5pm and 7pm tonight but NOT tomorrow morning.