BEN Thaler, one of England’s top referees, will handle Oldham’s Kingstone Press Championship game against London Broncos at Bower Fold, Stalybridge on Sunday, February 19 (3pm kick-off).
Thaler, 35, from Wakefield, and Oldham’s Robert Hicks were England’s full-time referees on the international panel that officiated at last year’s Four Nations Series.
In 2015 Thaler controlled the Challenge Cup final and the Super League Grand Final.
The night before his first appearance at Bower Fold, he will be the video referee at the Warrington Wolves v Brisbane Broncos World Club Challenge clash, handled by Phil Bentham.
Bentham’s back-up referee (reserve) is Chris Campbell, another full-time official who was in charge of Oldham’s only previous Championship game at Bower Fold this season when Scott Naylor’s squad beat Sheffield Eagles 26-10.
Local-man Hicks has the Wigan Warriors v Cronulla Sharks game the next day.
Oldham take on London Broncos boasting the second best defensive figures in the division, having conceded ten points against Sheffield and eight in a narrow defeat at Featherstone.
The only side to let in fewer points in their first two games are early league leaders Rochdale Hornets, who blasted Dewsbury Rams 46-0 and then won 22-14 at Bradford.
Oldham lie one place outside the top four — and three places higher than the Londoners, who have announced their intention to go flat out this year for promotion to Super League.
Not for the first time, meanwhile, Roughyeds have again stood by a player who has always given 100 per cent to the club.
They re-signed Craig Briscoe for 2017, knowing he would miss most of it while recovering from a knee reconstruction.
They have now signed utility back Steve Nield, who suffered a similar injury in a League One match at Keighley Cougars in May, 2015.
While sidelined for 19 months he had a knee rebuilt and retained an active involvement with the club, where he has spent the last six years.
He won a 2015 clubman-of-the-year award and although he wasn’t re-signed for 2016 he remained at the club and assisted on match days as a member of the backroom team.
To help out when the club was short of bodies he played in the warm-up games at Swinton and Barrow.
Said chairman Chris Hamilton: “Steve wanted to do his rehab with us and to keep involved with the club and we were happy to help.
“We’ve now re-signed him as part of his way back, but he knows that after nearly two years out he won’t be catching the side here, so he will be going out on loan.
“He needs to be playing regularly now so we’ll be loaning him out with that in mind.”