RAF flying in

Date published: Tuesday, June 3, 2014
THE visit of the Royal Air Force rugby league team to Whitebank on Saturday won’t be the first time Oldham have taken on opposition from the Armed Forces.

In March, 2008, Roughyeds beat the British Army 56-10 at Aldershot in the third round of the Challenge Cup before seeing off Swinton and Dewsbury, both away, en route to the quarter-final.
They met Super League outfit Wakefield Trinity Wildcats at Belle Vue in the last eight and gave a debut on the right wing to serving soldier Ben Seru, whom they had signed on the strength of his exciting performance for the Army at Aldershot in the third round.
His first game for Oldham was in the reserves at Widnes where he continued to impress and did enough to convince the then coach Steve Deakin that he was ready for his senior debut against the Wildcats.
It was all to end in tears because the Fijian seriously damaged a knee in the first half of a 46-4 defeat and was never to play again.
Of the team on duty that day, only Jason Boults is still playing at Oldham although stand-off Neil Roden is now coach of the under-20s, who will take on the RAF on Saturday, kicking off at Whitebank at 2.30pm.
Rugby league in the RAF has gone from strength to strength since its historic first fixture against the French Army in 1992 at RAF Finningley in Yorkshire.
The pinnacle of every season is the Inter-Services Championships in September, but they have also made regular appearances in the Challenge Cup and have flown the flag for rugby league in Jamaica, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and Canada.
While in Australia they were paraded on the pitch and introduced to crowds at State of Origin and NRL games.
Two years ago they beat the Canadian national side in Toronto and it is in preparation for a return visit later this month that they are testing themselves against Oldham’s under-20s.
“Oldham will give us a competitive work-out and that’s just what we need as we look ahead to Toronto and then the battles in the Inter-Services with our arch enemies,” said Flight Sergeant Ozzy Hicks, the team manager.
Commented Oldham chairman Chris Hamilton: “It isn’t often we are given the chance to stage games like this and to welcome members of the Forces to Whitebank.
“We will extend a huge welcome to the RAF squad and we hope supporters will turn up in numbers not only to support our lads but to show our appreciation for everything the RAF does in the service of our country.”
Admission prices will be £4 adults, £2 concessions, free for season-ticket holders.