Tony Benson amazed

Date published: Thursday, March 4, 2010

by Roger Halstead

Upbeat Roughyeds coach Tony Benson is “amazed” at how far the club has progressed on and off the field in the past few months.

Last autumn the Kiwi could only watch anxiously from 12,000 miles away in Auckland as the club’s existence was threatened, but he says that once it was stabilised there was no looking back.

Giving his thoughts on the season so far, Benson said: “Five games in and it’s already been one hell of a season.

“Well behind us now is last October’s winding-up order. Then Chris Hamilton saved the club after taking it over at the 11th hour.

“That left us tight financially and by early November, when most clubs had already started training, we hadn’t a player signed on.

“In the next two and a half months we signed a full squad and we had narrow losses in the Northern Rail Cup to Leigh, Hunslet and Sheffield —an epic battle this one — and a hard-fought win against Rochdale.

“In mid-February we were told we were close to calling White Bank Stadium home — our first home since we hit the road from Watersheddings in 1996.

“The amount of work that was done to get a team on the field at breakneck speed after the late start was amazing in itself.

“But on top of that we had to find the fantastic sponsors we now have on board; acquire a new kit; and continue all the work relative to finding a new home and temporary venues in the meantime.

“In the history of our great game I don’t think there has ever been a club that has taken so many huge steps forward in such a short space of time. I genuinely believe that and it comes from the heart.

“There will be teething problems due to the rapid pace that things have had to be done. But together we are creating history and a legacy, and the positive vibes generated over the last few months have been fantastic.

“If we now pull together as a club and as a community we have one of the sport’s brightest futures ahead of us.”

Turning his attention to the team, Benson said it was developing nicely, as was shown by increasingly improved performances culminating in last Sunday’s 38-20 win at fancied Swinton Lions in the opening game of the new league season.

He added: “We are starting to form combinations and our defence is getting tighter by the week.

“I’m particularly happy at the way we are coming together as a team. We are enjoying each other’s company and playing for each other — a positive feature that some teams are never able to develop.

“A few more training sessions and a few more matches under our belts and we’ll be very hard to beat.”

Roughyeds play Welsh amateurs Blackwood Bulldogs at Sedgley Park on Sunday (3.00pm) in the third round of the Carnegie Challenge Cup, but their next two home league games have been put back to later in the season in the hope that the new-ground situation will have been resolved by then.

“We are looking for some breathing space,” said chairman Chris Hamilton, “and we would like to thank Hunslet and Blackpool for their assistance in this matter.”

The Hunslet fixtures have been reversed. Oldham now play at Hunslet a week this Friday, March 12 (8.00pm kick off) and Hunslet come here on Sunday, May 23 (3.00pm kick off).

Blackpool were unable to reverse the fixtures so their game here scheduled for Sunday, March 21 will now be put back to Sunday, June 20 (3.00pm kick off) when there are no scheduled league games because of the Northern Rail Cup semi-finals.

The alterations mean that Roughyeds will not play at home again in the league until Easter Monday, April 5 (3.00pm kick off) when Workington Town visit.

And after the game at Hunslet on Friday of next week they won’t play again in the league until they go to Rochdale on Good Friday, April 2.

Roughyeds, meanwhile, have paid off an outstanding debt to HMRC to successfully fend off a winding-up order, their second in five months.

The outstanding bill was paid yesterday with the assistance of the Rugby League, confirmed Mr Hamilton.

He said: “The club still has debts and we are not out of the wood yet, but the fact that we have sorted out this bill to negate this latest winding-up order demonstrates clearly how much hard work is going on in order to put the back on an even keel.”