Reserves on track

Date published: Thursday, July 1, 2010

TWO and a half seasons since Roughyeds re-formed a reserve team, the 24-man squad is on target to achieve both short-term and long-term goals, said coach John Hough today.

“We’re on track — definitely on track,” added Hough, whose job is to find and develop young players within a structure that sets standards and prepares them for promotion to senior rugby at the club.

Tomorrow night at Whitebank (7.30 kick off), Hough’s class of 2010 take on Dewsbury Rams with a realistic chance of appearing in the end-of-season play-offs for the first time.

The top six qualify and Roughyeds currently lie fifth at the half-way point of the season with five wins from eight games played.

More importantly, three players from Hough’s 2008 squad — Chris Clarke, Ben Heaton and Scott Mansfield — are building reputations in Tony Benson’s senior side.

Others, like Mark Smith, Michael Ward, Austen Barrowclough, Jacob Kinney, Ross Coates and Ben Marsden, have earned professional contracts as they strive to emulate Clarke, Heaton and Mansfield.

And two non-contract players, Alistair Williams and Michael Cadd, are training with the first team on the back of exciting performances for the reserves.

“We’re playing open, entertaining rugby,” added Hough, “and it’s good to see a few of the boys pushing up towards senior level.

“We’re chasing a play-off spot with all guns blazing. Our goal for the season is to make the six and then we’ll see what happens from there. We’ll cross that bridge if and when we get there.

“We are in our third season and for the first time there is real competition for places. Barring injuries, the top performers will get the shirts.

“We have not been in that position before. The boys know that if performances fall short of standards we will have to look at bringing somebody else in.”

The reserves train three nights a week and each player does an extra gym session away from the club.

On Monday nights the squad have rehab and swimming at the Chadderton Well-Being Centre, followed by a DVD session of that weekend’s game. On Wednesday nights and Friday nights training takes place at Whitebank.

Added John: “The facilities at the Chadderton Well-Being Centre are first-class and the staff there are very helpful and accommodating.

“Over the course of any week we put in a lot of time and hard work to reach our goals, and the goal for this year is to make the play-offs for the first time. We must guard against slipping up in the second half of the season or we will fail to achieve what we undoubtedly deserve, and that’s a place in the play-offs.”

Hough’s squad is mainly comprised of Oldhamers. Higginshaw’s Carl Fields, a player with a similar background to Williams and Cadd, made his debut in last week’s defeat at Whitehaven and gave an eye-catching performance.

Recent out-of-town recruits include 17-year-old winger Danny Chetwynd from Rochdale, half-back Tommy Connick from St Helens and back-row forward Johnny Walker from Wigan, all of whom will be in line to face Dewsbury when Hough names his squad at training tonight.

Winger Sean Hamilton (shoulder), hooker Dean Hatton (knee) and back-row forward Mark Smith (hamstring) picked up knocks at Whitehaven and they will have to be assessed before Hough names his squad.

Dewsbury lie beneath Roughyeds in the Reserves Division table, but they had a good win against Hunslet last time out.

“They are no mugs. We will have to be on our guard,” said Hough, whose players took part on Tuesday in an opposed session against the first team.

They did enough to earn high praise from Tony Benson, who said: “I’m really looking forward to seeing them in action on Friday. I was most impressed with how they performed in the opposed session when they were sharp and exciting, as ever.”