Squad rotation policy to stay

Date published: Tuesday, April 21, 2015
EIGHT games into the season and the number of ever-presents in the Oldham RL Club’s line-up is down to just three — Josh Crowley, Jack Holmes and Jarrod Ward.

That’s a direct result of Scott Naylor’s rotation policy, which has resulted in the use of 26 players in three iPro Sport Cup games, two Ladbrokes Challenge Cup ties and three League One games against Rochdale away, Coventry at home and South Wales Scorpions away.
Early days yet, but Naylor’s men have won each of their three league games and currently sit on top of the table with the best defensive record in the division and the second-best scoring figures.
The Roughyeds’ boss is convinced that huge factors in that early-season surge are the exceptional fitness of his players and his firm belief that all members of his squad need to be involved and kept constantly on their toes.
The 38-10 defeat of Coventry at Whitebank in the first home league game of the season was achieved without half a dozen front-line players in captain Lewis Palfrey, vice-captain Sam Gee, George Tyson, Gareth Owen, Phil Joy and Liam Thompson.
All six were reinstated in the side that ran in ten tries in a 50-12 win at South Wales Scorpions, but left at home on that occasion were Adam Clay, Steve Roper, Adam Neal, Adam Files, teenager Tom Dempsey and the latest Huddersfield Giants youngster to be used on dual-reg, Josh Johnson.
Said the Oldham boss: “It’s important that we keep all the players in the squad tidy and fresh, and ready to respond to the call when it comes.
“It’s going to be a long, hard season and I have to guard against situations in which I’m asking players to step up and do a good job when they might have been kicking their heels for a few weeks.
“That apart, I needed to know what every player in the squad was capable of, and I know now that they can all step up and do a good job.”
Remarkably in a sport with as much physical contact as rugby league, Roughyeds went seven games without picking up a serious injury.
Recent centre recruit Tom Ashton, who has looked a great prospect on the evidence of his one and a half games in the Oldham jersey, suffered knee damage in South Wales to end that injury-free run. He will be assessed at training tonight.
Added Naylor: “You can’t legislate for injuries like that. It was nothing to do with his fitness or his general condition. It was what I call a rugby injury rather than an issue about his strength and stamina.
“Our fitness is first-class and, as a result, I have lads who can stay on the field for longer periods than one would expect from players in certain positions.
“In South Wales I only changed my props once — and Liam Thompson, at loose-forward, did 72 minutes of sheer hard graft, making more than 40 tackles, and was disappointed and quizzical when I called him in. He didn’t want to come off.
“I’m allowed ten interchanges per game, but because the boys are so fit and I’m rotating them in team selection anyway, I’m rarely having to make ten substitutions.
“The starting props are getting to the 20-minute mark and telling me they don’t want to come off because they are just getting their second wind.
“There’s no point in taking players off for the sake of it. Whether I make five substitutions or ten, I only make them when I consider it necessary.
“I used seven interchanges last Sunday, but I’ve gone to the maximum ten only once this season and that was in the match against North Wales Crusaders in the iPro Sport Cup semi-final.”