STEVE Nield, who was out for 18 months after wrecking his left knee at Keighley in the summer of 2015, is looking for a ‘fresh start’ after signing a new one-year deal with his home-town club Oldham.
The 26-year-old utility back – mainly full-back or wing – managed eight league appearances in the season just finished, but he’s hoping to make up for lost time in the 2018 League 1 campaign and get considerably more game time than that.
“The knee is good now, touch wood, and the spell I had at Gloucester on loan last season helped to build up my fitness and confidence,” said Nield after putting pen to paper on a deal t0 extend his stay with the Roughyeds to more than seven years.
Like Danny Langtree and Phil Joy, who have also signed new deals, ‘Nieldy’ first signed as a teenager to play in the reserves and he had already spent more than two seasons at the club when Scott Naylor arrived to take charge in the autumn of 2012.
His best season was in 2014 when he scored seven tries in 19 appearances, but all that was to change midway through the 2015 promotion campaign when he went down in a harmless-looking tackle at Keighley.
He suffered serious damage which required a full knee reconstruction and he didn’t play again until early 2017 when he made his first tentative steps back into the action in a couple of pre-season friendlies at Swinton and Barrow.
His appearances for Gloucester, followed by his eight games for Roughyeds on his return, have set him up for a good pre-season to come and a challenge for a more regular spot next year.
At the end of his ill-fated 2015 season he had the distinction of receiving a clubman-of-the-year award for his hard work behind the scenes and on match days while he was unable to train or play.
“The lads are good mates and comfortable with each other and that’s why a lot of us want to stick together,” he added. “As well as playing for the team and the club we play for each other.
“I felt I did okay at the back end of last season, so the plan this year is to have a good pre-season and then push for a place from the start instead of just getting going when the season is nearly over.”
Naylor, himself happy to commit for two more years, said: “Steve is 100 per cent Oldham — loyal to team mates, club and the badge he is proud to wear.
“He worked his way back last season after a full year out through injury, and he did well. He knows the club, the lads and all our structures and plans inside out and he’ll be a very important member of the squad in 2018.”
Meanwhile, Oldham and Craig Briscoe have remained loyal to each other during the player’s two-year battle to overcome a serious knee injury which both parties hope is now a thing of the past.
Having played only seven competitive games for Roughyeds since he joined the club from Barrow ahead of the 2016 Kingstone Press Championship campaign, the former Leigh Centurions back-row forward has signed a new one-year deal in anticipation of repaying the club’s confidence in him.
He is now well on the road to a full recovery after a major reconstruction of his right knee at Wrightington Hospital, Wigan last January.
Typical of the cruel luck that blighted Roughyeds’ two-year stay in the Championship, Briscoe was signed to stiffen the pack for the higher division only to rupture the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee the first time he donned Oldham colours in a warm-up game at Barrow, his former club.
He was out until the back end of that season but in his seventh appearance – a Championship Shield game against Workington at Bower Fold – he suffered a recurrence and he hasn’t played since.
“The plan initially was to squeeze in a game or two at the end of last season, but I didn’t get my operation as soon as I expected so that changed things,” said Briscoe.
“Also, it would have been hard for Scott (coach Naylor) to throw me in because we were battling against relegation.
“In the long run it might prove the best thing though because I’ve had more time to strengthen the knee and I’ve got a full pre-season to look forward to.
“I’ll have to take things a bit cautiously in the first two or three weeks, but I’m confident that everything will be okay.
“It was tough watching last season. We had a really good side, but all the injuries hit us hard and we lost a few games by narrow margins.
“We seem to be keeping a nucleus of the lads and I see no reason why we can’t perform well in League 1 and, hopefully, get straight back up.”
Naylor said of Briscoe: “We are all keen to see Craig back on the field and free from injury.
“I was really keen to sign him when we were building up for our first season in the Championship and I’m looking forward to seeing a fully-fit Craig Briscoe back in action in Oldham colours.
“He’s worked hard during the long months of rehab and he has been very patient. I’m eagerly awaiting next season so I can watch the player I was so keen to sign in the first place.”
Rochdale have announced the signing of former Oldham full-back Richard Lepori, who was named this week in Italy’s World Cup squad.
Like Michael Ward, who has gone to Batley, ‘Lippy’ leaves Roughyeds with the club’s thanks and best wishes for the future.