Selection headache for Hunslet match

Date published: Friday, February 4, 2011

OLDHAM RL Club boss Tony Benson admits he faces a selection headache ahead of Sunday’s Northern Rail Cup opener against Hunslet Hawks at Whitebank (3pm kick off).

He won’t name his 17 until training tomorrow morning, but he received a huge boost at last night’s session when prop Dave Ellison was cleared to play after recovering from an arm injury.

Ellison was a major doubt earlier in the week but he trained normally last night and is among the 23 players who are sweating on winning places in the first competitive game of the season.

Only two are already out of the mix —- young forward Johnny Walker, who has a hamstring injury, and joint vice-captain Marcus St Hilaire.

Johnny Walker is out for Sunday due to injury

The club’s most experienced outside back hasn’t figured in any of the three warm-up games but he is expected to be back in contention by the end of the month.

By arrangement with the club, he started pre-season training later than the rest — due to work commitments — and he is still playing catch-up.

Said Benson: “Junior (St Hilaire) has been training with us for the past month, but he still needs two or three more weeks before he is ready to go into a game.

“He always keeps himself in good shape and a player with his experience doesn’t lose his skill or his knowledge. It won’t take him long to get up to speed once he feels he is ready to play.”

Another pre-season duty Benson must perform tomorrow is to allocate squad numbers which the players will keep for the duration of the season.

“It will be an important session for us,” he added, “and then we are all off to Spindles to meet the shoppers and to promote the club and Sunday’s game.”

Looking ahead to the clash with newly-promoted Hunslet, he said Roughyeds faced a big challenge against quality opponents who had strengthened their squad considerably during the close season.

“They gave us a good hiding at Whitebank last year,” he recalled, “and they are even stronger now. We are up against it, but we are also stronger than we were this time last year. We are confident that we can give it a real good go.”