Scott Mansfield

Date published: Wednesday, March 17, 2010

ROUGHYEDS boss Tony Benson has spotlighted local lad Scott Mansfield as a shining example of what Oldham boys can achieve with their home-town club given the necessary drive and determination.

“Scott’s story is inspirational,” said Tony, “and it also underlines the opportunities that are now available at the club for young players thanks to the work being done by John Hough and his helpers at Reserve-team level.

“It’s a good story because it highlights Scott’s desire to go as far as he can in his chosen sport despite setbacks along the way, but it is also a good story from the club’s point of view because it emphasises the quality of the work being performed within the Reserve team squad.”

Tony was speaking in the wake of 19-year-old Mansfield’s impressive first-team debut in Oldham’s 29-16 win at Hunslet Hawks.

Ben Heaton, whose rise from Reserve-team rookie to senior squad member had taken a similar route, also played at Hunslet on his 20th birthday.

And had he not been injured in a narrow defeat by Championship side Sheffield Eagles in the Northern Rail Cup a third local boy from last year’s Reserves would also have been there or thereabouts — Chris Clarke.

All three are in the second year of two-year contracts, having initially joined the club as young unknowns on trial when the Reserve team was set up in 2008.

The production line is continuing this season with four more Reserves now in the first of two-year agreements, namely Michael Ward, Austen Barrowclough, Jacob Kinney and Ross Coates.

In addition, 19-year-old local lad Ben Marsden is also starting out on a two-year contract, although his arrival at the Roughyeds followed a slightly different route.

Heaton, Clarke and Mansfield were all handed first-team squad numbers for 2010 when Benson named his initial 25.

Heaton has played in each of the club’s seven competitive matches in all competitions so far; Clarke played in the first four before he was injured; and Mansfield, proudly wearing his No 25 shirt, made his debut at Hunslet off the bench.

Benson was suitably impressed with him, revealing later that he, his staff and the player himself now regard Mansfield’s future as one which will blossom in the hooking role.

The youngster’s story is one which will be familiar to many local boys. Starting out at Saddleworth Rangers, he went to Warrington Wolves for training and then went through the Foundation course at Salford City Reds before returning to Saddleworth, prior to joining his home-town club.

Tony takes up the tale. “Scott worked his socks off when he came to us, but last season he was twice laid low by two separate attacks of tonsillitis and he lost a stone and a half in weight.

“He fought back, hung in there, pestered me constantly for an invitation to train with the first-team squad during the off season and forced himself into the first-team squad on the back of a fabulous performance against Hornets at Castleton in a very young Oldham side that we put out for the Law Cup.

“Prior to that match he wasn’t in the squad. It was more or less settled, but after the show he put on at Rochdale we couldn’t leave him out so he got the No 25 shirt, and he was as proud as punch.

“He put in another top performance in the Reserves at Keighley Cougars and I felt it was time to give him his senior debut at Hunslet; hardly an easy game, but I was confident in his ability to handle it.

“One of the problems we had was in finding his best position, but we are absolutely convinced — and so is he — that he is going to come through as a hooker.

“He has come on in leaps and bounds playing there and that’s the role he will be concentrating on from now on.

“He was on the bench at Hunslet as back-up for Martin Roden but when Martin was sin-binned towards the end of the first half it was a case of ‘the best laid plans of mice and men’.

“As it happened Ben Heaton had to come off about the same time so Scotty replaced him and went straight in at hooker.

“I didn’t want to bring him off when Martin returned so I switched Scotty to loose-forward and he did a good job in that position too.

“He certainly didn’t look out of place at loose, but his future is at hooker and I was really placed with his performance. He must have been happy with how his debut went, and I know his team mates were very happy indeed for him.”

Mansfield, whose job outside rugby is looking after children in a private Day Nursery, will now see his rugby future much clearer than he has done over the last few years when there was a lot of uncertainty.

“I regard the hooking job as a big challenge,” he said, “but I enjoy a challenge and I will be giving it my best shot.

“Hopefully, I’ll be able to excel at it and get into the first team more regularly.”