Boss Issues a Challenge
Oldham boss Tony Benson has challenged the Roughyeds' new boys to show him what they are made of in pre-season games at Batley on Sunday (2.00pm), at Whitehaven on Wednesday (8.00pm) and at Rochdale a week on Sunday (3.00pm).
If the Batley game survives a Saturday afternoon pitch inspection -- prospects at this stage are said to be 60-40 in favour -- Benson will parade no fewer than NINE newcomers plus TWO on senior debut after signing from the reserves.
Ready to wear the Oldham jersey for the first time are Chris Brand (centre), Valu Bentley (stand-off), Dave Ellison (prop), Kashley Watkins (second-row), Saqib Murtza (second-row) and Ben Marsden, Jack Graves, Mick Fogerty and Mark Brocklehurst, who will be on the bench.
Chris Clarke at loose-forward and Michael Ward on the left wing are no strangers to Roughyeds fans who watch the reserves, although this will be their first taste of senior rugby.
OLDHAM (probable): O'Connor; Onyango, Heaton, Brand, Ward; Bentley, Ashe; Ellison, M Roden, Kerr, Watkins, Murtza, Clarke. Subs: Boults, Marsden, Graves, Sykes, Fogerty, Brocklehurst.
Said Benson: "The warm-up games are important not only for the development of the team but also to compensate for our lack of pitch work during the big freeze.
"We have been relatively limited in what we have been able to do in training over the past month, but despite added pressures in a game I would still expect every player in this squad to hold on to our principles and structures.
"I want to give the new players reasonable time on the pitch so they can acquire some match fitness.
"But the main objective of these games is to give our exciting group of new players plenty of game time so we can have a good look at them and give them a fair chance to push for a spot.
"It's in their hands. I have no pre-conceived ideas about the team's make-up come the start of the Northern Rail Cup. From then on, the players will be fighting to hold on to their jerseys.
"As games go by and we start to settle on a likely line-up I would expect to see combinations coming together in the different parts of the field."