Thunder aim to blitz Fortress WhitebankDate published: Tuesday, May 12, 2015
SCOTT Naylor’s first two league games at Whitebank as Oldham RL Club’s new boss ended in defeats by Rochdale and Oxford.
That was more than two years ago —- and, in the league, the ramparts of Fortress Whitebank haven’t been breached since.
It’s 19 matches since Roughyeds last suffered a home league defeat, but they are preparing for their biggest test on Sunday since they snatched a last-gasp 24-23 win against Hunslet Hawks last July.
Stanley Gene’s Newcastle Thunder will roll into town for the first time since the former Gateshead club was taken over by wealthy Newcastle Rugby Ltd, owners of Newcastle Falcons rugby union club.
They moved lock, stock and barrel from Gateshead to the Falcons’ Kingston Park stadium north of the Tyne and rebranded themselves as a club with Super League ambitions.
Former Hull KR star Gene flew to his native Papua New Guinea and came back with PNG internationals Charlie Wabo, Jason Tali and Mark Mexico.
Hooker Dayne Craig, from Sydney club Western Suburbs Magpies, flew in from Australia and Gene pulled off what he believed to be a major coup when he turned on-loan half-back Matty Beharrell, from Hull KR, into a fully-fledged signing.
Only unbeaten leaders Keighley Cougars have beaten them so far in League One and they are currently one place beneath Oldham in third with the same number of points as Naylor’s men and, like Roughyeds, with five wins from six games.
They’ve won at Rochdale and at North Wales Crusaders and beaten Barrow on Tyneside and they still remember that when they last played Oldham on August 31 last year, as Gateshead, they won 40-14 at the International Stadium.
“It’s going to be a big game for both teams,” said Naylor, who suffered one setback when new centre signing Tom Ashton went down with a knee injury and then another when on-loan Jon Ford was recalled by Salford Red Devils.
After a bruising battle at Barrow, in which Roughyeds suffered their first league defeat of the season, the players are back in for training tonight although early indications were that there wasn’t a lot to worry about regarding injuries.
None of the PNG boys played in Newcastle’s 58-12 win at Hemel and it has since emerged that Mexico will be out for several weeks with a torn hamstring.
Tali and Wabo have minor knocks and are expected to be back in action at Whitebank along with French utility player Sebastien Martins, who has joined Thunder on trial and is expected to replace Mexico on his debut.
Roughyeds will not be affected this week by the aftermath of Saturday’s Barrow brawl in which Oldham’s Gareth Owen and Barrow’s Liam Campbell were sent off for fighting. Their cases won’t be heard by the disciplinary committee until next week.
The RFL’s match review panel will examine the match tape on Thursday, but if any other players are to be involved in disciplinary proceedings they will also have to wait until next week to learn their fate.