WHO said rugby prop-forwards were all brawn and no brain?

Date published: Thursday, September 22, 2011

Liam Gilchrist, Oldham’s young front-row man, has graduated from the University of Central Lancashire with a degree in contemporary fine art and he is now studying for a Masters at Salford University.

He’s also signed a new one-year contract with Roughyeds to spend a second season under the sporting tutelage of Tony Benson.

[singlepic id=422 w=320 h=240 float=left]”He’s a bright lad,” said Oldham’s head coach, “and in terms of his rugby he has an old head on young shoulders.

“He came on in leaps and bounds last year and I am delighted he is staying because he undoubtedly has huge potential.

“He’s a strong defender, with a good pass. And he’s good on his feet when he hits the line.

“He’s a good big forward now, but he’s still young for a front-rower and he’s going to mature into an exceptionally good prop because he has the necessary qualities — size, nous, a desire to improve himself and a great work ethic.”

Standing 6ft2in and weighing nearly 17 stone, 22-year-old Gilchrist is looking forward to a 2012 season which, unlike his first year at the club, won’t be disrupted by his Great Britain Students’ commitments.

At the height of the season he was a member of the GB Students’ squad that caused a stir by beating Australia in a three-match series Down Under for the first time, drawing the first Test and winning the next two.

“That was a fantastic experience,” he said, “and I was proud to be part of it. But by going off to Australia for a few weeks it meant I had a stop-start season at Oldham.

“I missed a couple of games through injury just before I went and three more while I was away. Then I was at the back of the queue on my return, and I didn’t get in right away because the other props were playing so well.

“Oldham fans haven’t seen the best of me yet. I’m still learning, but I feel I have more to give.

“Injuries absolutely wrecked us, depriving us of senior players for weeks on end. It was an extremely tight division and but for those injuries — on top of all the others we then lost Ben Heaton for the play-off — I think we could have won promotion.

“That’s my first goal — to go up to the Championship with Oldham. I see no reason why we can’t do it next year.

“It was a tough, up-and-down season in 2011, but despite that disappointing defeat at Rochdale there was a great atmosphere within the team and that will stand us in good stead next year.”

It’s still not too late for fans to ring Roughyeds (0161 628 3677) and confirm their attendance at tomorrow night’s Fans Forum at Whitebank, which starts at 7.30pm. Cost is £4 including supper and entry to a draw for a 2012 season ticket.

Tickets for the reserve team’s presentation night, £5 including hot supper, will be on sale behind the bar at Whitebank on Sunday when John Hough’s boys take on Widnes Vikings (3pm) in the grand final of the Reserves Under-23s Championship. Voting slips for reserve team and first team player-of-the-year awards will also be available.

The Junction Inn, Ripponden Road, is laying on free transport to Whitebank on Sunday for fans from that side of town, leaving at 2pm. Ring the pub on 0161 633 2759 to reserve a place.