‘Ropes’ boost for NaylorDate published: Tuesday, October 27, 2015
BACK in the Kingstone Press Championship after nine seasons in rugby league’s third tier, Oldham will again have the services of experienced half-back Steve Roper, who has signed a new one-year contract to play at the higher level.
It gives Scott Naylor the opportunity to perm any two half-backs from three —- Roper, club captain Lewis Palfrey, last season’s League One player of the year, and new signing Danny Grimshaw from Hunslet Hawks, who has already played more than 50 games at Championship level.
Palfrey and Roper have played together for the last season and a half, but head coach Naylor demonstrated his liking for having a third half-back in his squad when he recruited 19-year-old David Hewitt, on loan from St Helens, midway through the promotion campaign.
The young Saint scored five tries in half a dozen appearances as Naylor rotated his squad, but he has clearly gone for a more street-wise, battle-hardened approach in putting together his Championship squad by bringing in 29-year-old Grimshaw and offering a new contract to Roper, who will be 29 next month.
“I’m really pleased Steve has signed again because he has loads of experience and he has shown in the past season and a half that he works well wih Lewis Palfrey,” said Naylor, of the former Widnes and Rochdale half, who played in 21 of the 28 games last season, scoring four tries, kicking 18 goals as Palfrey’s deputy marksman and landing two drop goals.
“He is a useful goalkicker; his defence has improved massively since came to us; and his vast knowledge of the game means that he fully understands what I want from the team in any given situation or in whatever game plan we are using.
“He knows what I want and how to put it into practice and that’s a very good quality to have, especially in a half-back.”
Roper has played previously in tier two, with Widnes.
He said: “It will be tough and it will be a completely different sort of challenge to what we’ve been through in the last couple of seasons. But we certainly don’t need to be in awe of it.
“The full-time teams will be hard to beat, but I’m sure we’ll be just as competitive as all the others.
“Don’t forget that five teams came down from the Championship into League One last season, but we finished higher than all of them.
“We beat Rochdale and Swinton home and away, Keighley twice at Whitebank, Barrow at home, North Wales away and Barrow up at their place in the iProSport Cup.
“It’s a big step-up, obviously, but Chris (club chairman Hamilton) and ‘Nobby’ (head coach Naylor) are working hard on bringing good additions to the squad and I also think the players we are keeping are more than capable of doing well at the higher level.”