NINE new signings, better facilities, an artificial pitch, and a different slant on how things are done in pre-season training…
It’s all-change as Oldham RLFC prepare for an all-out assault on League 1; and head coach Scott Naylor has welcomed what he describes as a “real freshness” about the place.
New boys Paul Crook, Luke Nelmes, Danny Rasool, Kyran Johnson, Dave Eccleston, Matt Reid, Adam Jones, Liam Bent and Jack Holmes are settling in well, he said, after two weeks of pre-season work on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings.
That schedule reverts to Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning this week because the players will undergo heart screening, as demanded by the Rugby Football League, and that has to be done on Saturday.
Naylor will then stick to his Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday routine for the remainder of his pre-season work and beyond.
Training is split with ball work taking place at the revamped Vestacare Stadium, run by Avro FC, and power work on weights done in the gym at nearby Oasis Academy under the watch of prop Adam Neal, a full-time personal trainer in his life away from rugby league.
Naylor said: “Everything is going well. We’ve changed the format this year which means we are working harder than ever before. For instance, we spend a lot more time with ball in hand on the new artificial pitch at the Vestacare Stadium.
“We did a bit of work on it at the end of last season and we found it to be a superb facility.
“The lads are also working hard with Adam on weights in the gym and then doing a lot of stuff in small groups, which is proving very beneficial indeed.
“Facilities for us at the new-look Vestacare Stadium are great and Avro FC are doing all they can to help us. They are really good with us. It’s all working extremely well.
“The new lads are selling in quickly and getting used to what we are doing and it’s nice to have so many different faces around the place. They bring a newness and a freshness to the squad and it’s evident already that they realise they will have to fight for places.
“Everybody is giving everything there is to give, and that’s all we can ask for at this stage.”
Naylor has 20 players on contract – nine new signings plus the 11 who have signed new deals, namely Adam Neal, Phil Joy, Danny Langtree, Gareth Owen, Craig Briscoe, Jack Spencer, Ben Davies, Kenny Hughes, Matty Wilkinson (all forwards) and Steven Nield and David Hewitt (backs).
The biggest changes will be in the backs with the influential Crook calling the shots at stand-off and new recruits Danny Rasool, Kyran Johnson, Dave Eccleston, Matt Reid and Jack Holmes going up against long-serving Steven Nield for the full-back, centre and wing jerseys.
Holmes, who can play in all three of those positions, needs no introduction, having played for Roughyeds in 2015 and 2016 before moving to Rochdale towards the end of that season.
Rasool, centre or second-row, has also worn Oldham colours in the past, but only in the reserves when he was 17 or 18. Since then, he has been on Warrington’s books and last season he was out on loan to Workington Town.
Johnson (full-back or wing) arrives from Featherstone Rovers; Eccleston (wing) from St Helens; Reid (centre or second-row) from Coventry Bears.
Naylor added: “We’re a relatively small squad up to now so we’re still on the look-out to add to it. Hopefully, our recruitment hasn’t finished yet.”