OLDHAM RUGBY League Club has only two games this month – away to Hemel Stags on Sunday, May 12 and at home to Gateshead Thunder on Sunday, May 26 – but that doesn’t mean players and coaching staff will be spending blank weekends relaxing in the back garden.
Coach Scott Naylor believes consistency of purpose is the key to success and there was a sign of things to come when, on another free weekend in April, he took his squad down to Salford for a game behind closed doors against a side from the Roughyeds’ Super League partner club Salford City Reds.
Said Naylor: “It was full-tackle and close to the real thing – about 80 per cent I would say. We got a lot out of it and so did they.
“I don’t like these weekends without a game because you need to keep playing on a regular basis to maintain momentum, impetus and fitness levels.
“We’ve a few blanks in the fixture list so we’ll be doing more of this sort of thing as the season unfolds. You can’t always mirror a game situation in training, but you can get very close to it when staging a game against players from another club.”
Naylor believes his six prop-forwards will be the driving force behind Oldham’s bid to climb out of rugby league’s third tier in his first season at Whitebank.
Having seen Michael Ward punching holes up the middle against Gloucester in his first run-out at prop, the Oldham boss says he will have no hesitation in using him in the engine room again.
As part of his squad rotation policy Naylor rested Chris Tyrer against the All Golds and experimented with centre or back-row man Ward as a replacement prop coming off the bench.
He started with Jason Boults and 19-year-old Callum Marriott and later replaced them with 21-year-old Phil Joy, in his first season on contract at this level, and play-anywhere Ward, himself only 22.
Naylor later hailed the Ward experiment as an unqualified success and spoke highly of the squad’s strength in depth in the front-row of the pack.
He said: “All four props did a great job against Gloucester (Roughyeds won 36-0 away from home) and we didn’t use Tyrer and Liam Gilchrist, who is recovering from injury.
“Ward’s successful switch up front gives us six props. They are putting pressure on each other and that’s got to be good for the team.”