Top billing for Joy

Date published: Thursday, May 30, 2013
OLDHAM’S rookie prop Phil Joy, in his first season of senior rugby, could soon become one of the best front-row forwards in Championship One.

So says coach Scott Naylor in a clear indication of how highly he rates the 21-year-old student, a product of the Roughyeds’ youth policy.

A high flier at Leeds University, and hoping to build a career in the business and financial sector, Joy spent two years in Oldham’s reserve team after his early grounding in the junior section at Waterhead.

He stepped up from the second team this year with Danny Langtree, Kenny Hughes and Steven Nield, who have all made their mark in varying degrees.

Contracted to the club for the first time, Joy began the season low down in the forwards’ pecking order, but earned the right to become one of the starting props in each of the last three games against Oxford, Hemel Stags and Gateshead.

It was his strong performance off the bench in the 36-0 win against Gloucester All Golds at Cheltenham in mid-April that was to prove the catalyst for his promotion.

Said Naylor: “He is making outstanding progress — and the extent of his development, considering he was playing academy rugby this time last year, is well ahead of realistic expectations.

“He’s a quiet lad, but he’s a quick learner and determined to fulfil his potential.

“I regard him now as one of my front-line props and that’s remarkable considering where he was at the start of the year.

“He’s young for a prop in senior rugby, but if he continues to work as hard as he has done since the start of pre-season training it isn’t over-stating his case to say he could become one of the top props in this division.”

Joy was named in the latest Premier Sports team of the week, alongside his Oldham front-row colleague Adam Files.

Naylor also lauded Michael Ward’s progress, particularly since he was converted from a second-row-forward-cum-centre to an impact prop, coming off the bench.

Oldham-born Ward (22), another product of the club’s youth policy, was given that role at Gloucester and, like Joy, he hasn’t looked back since.

Added Naylor: “Though different in stature they have a few things in common — they are big, strong lads who are all hustle and bustle and very awkward to tackle.

“I expect big things from both of them over the remainder of this season.”

Naylor’s line-up for Sunday’s home game against London Skolars (3pm kick off) is unlikely to show much change from the Gateshead game, although he will have to find a replacement half-back — probably Neil Roden or Kenny Hughes — for Danny Whitmore, whose loan period has ended prematurely because of injury.