In the second of our new preview series for the 2022 season, Getting To Know, Josh takes an in-depth look at visitors to Cougar Park this season, Oldham RLFC.
2022 SEASON SO FAR
The 2022 season to date has been one of rebuilding, re-homing, and new beginnings for the Roughyeds.
Following relegation from the Championship last season, the club departed Bower Fold in Stalybridge to return to the Vestacare Stadium (Whitebank) ahead of the 2022 Betfred League 1 season.
Chris Hamilton acted quickly to appoint Stuart Littler as his new Head Coach as Brendan Sheridan held the fort towards the back end of 2021 after the dismissal of Matt Diskin midway through the last campaign.
A total of 19 players from last season’s squad departed, headlined by Championship Young Player of the Year Tyler Dupree. The prop one of four players who moved onto current Championship leaders Widnes Vikings.
With only 6 of the 2021 team retained, Littler began an immediate rebuilding job with 21 new additions to the Oldham squad for this season, four of which moved across the Pennines from ourselves here at the Cougars.
After a 24-all home draw with the Wakefield reserves side, the new look Roughyeds first taste of competitive action came against community club Lock Lane in the Betfred Challenge Cup.
However, on a night to forget for the club, they were defeated by the Castleford based amateurs after three separate floodlight failures to suffer their first ever Cup defeat to a community club.
An apology followed, but all eyes will now be focused on a Betfred League 1 promotion push as they look to return to the Championship at the first time of asking this year.
Newly appointed ahead of this season following the club’s relegation, Stuart Littler will be looking to lead his rebuilt squad to an immediate return to the Championship.
Littler’s decision to arrive at Whitebank in the winter sees him return to the club coaching scene after his four-year spell as Swinton Lions Head Coach was brought to an end in July.
As a player, Stuart played as a centre for four clubs domestically and internationally for Ireland. His 112 tries during a 12-year stint with the Salford Red Devils means that to this day he is the club’s joint all-time leading try scorer alongside David Watkins.
Following his retirement from playing, Littler initially served as John Duffy’s assistant coach at the Swinton Lions before stepping into the hotseat in July 2017 after Duffy departed to take the Featherstone Rovers job.
He would make an immediate impact at Swinton, keeping the club in the second tier before exceeding expectations in 2019 as he guided the side tipped for relegation to a 9th place finish in a season which included a memorable away victory over promotion hopefuls Toulouse Olympique.
However, after Covid-19, the Lions struggled, and the decision was taken for the two parties to part ways after the club failed to win a single match all season prior to his departure.
And whilst his Roughyeds tenure began with a Challenge Cup defeat to community club Lock Lane, he will be hoping to hit the ground running in the Betfred League 1 season.
Stuart also serves as the Ireland national team Head Coach and will be looking to lead his side to the Quarter Finals after a favourable draw grouped them with New Zealand, Jamaica, and Lebanon for this years tournament.
SQUAD: 1 – Owen Restall; 2 – Tommy Brierley; 3 – Will Cooke; 4 – Calvin Wellington; 5 – Ben Holcroft; 6 – Martyn Ridyard; 7 – Dave Hewitt; 8 – Luke Nelmes; 9 – Brad Jinks; 10 – Tom Spencer; 11 – Jason Muranka; 12 – Callum Cameron; 13 – Emmerson Whittel; 14 – Sean Slater; 15 – Jordan Andrade; 16 – James Thornton; 17 – Jack Coventry; 18 – Joe Hartley; 19 – Dominic Newton; 20 – David Mills; 21 – Tom Grierson; 22 – Liam Copland; 23 – Kian Morgan; 24 – Ethan Ferry; 25 – Jamie Pye; 26 – Ryan Wright; 27 – Jack Arnold
RETAINED FROM 2021: Tommy Brierley; Joe Hartley; Dave Hewitt; Ben Holcroft; Brad Jinks; Luke Nelmes
TRANSFERS IN: Callum Cameron (Waterhead Warriors); Will Cooke (Hunslet RL); Jack Coventry (Keighley Cougars); Martyn Ridyard (Swinton Lions); Tom Grierson (Huddersfield Giants); David Mills (Warrington Wolves); Calvin Wellington (Workington Town); Owen Restall (Underbank Rangers); Jason Muranka (Keighley Cougars); Jordan Andrade (Hunslet RL); Sean Slater (Huddersfield Giants); Ryan Wright (Keighley Cougars); Dominic Newton (Underbank Rangers); Kian Morgan (Midlands Hurricanes); Tom Spencer (Leigh Centurions); Emmerson Whittel (Cairns Brothers); James Thornton (Dewsbury Rams); Jamie Pye (St Helens); Liam Copland (Hunslet RL); Ethan Ferry (Dewsbury Celtic); Jack Arnold (Keighley Cougars)
TRANSFERS OUT: Liam Bent (Widnes Vikings); Tyler Dupree (Widnes Vikings); Dec Gregory (Widnes Vikings); Ryan Ince (Widnes Vikings); Liam Kirk (Sheffield Eagles); Martyn Reilly (Sheffield Eagles); Danny Langtree (Barrow Raiders); Dan Abram (Swinton Lions); Lewis Charnock (Swinton Lions); Max Roberts (Swinton Lions); Jack Spencer (Swinton Lions); Matty Wilkinson (Swinton Lions); Matthew Fletcher (North Wales Crusaders); Gareth Owen (Waterhead Warriors); Danny Bridge (Waterhead Warriors); Phil Joy (Waterhead Warriors); Callum Green (Released); Kyran Johnson (Released); Jode Sheriffe (Retired)
ONE TO WATCH
Arguably the headline signing of the club’s 21 off-season recruits, the veteran half-back Martyn Ridyard will add much needed leadership and experience to Stuart Littler’s new look outfit.
Now in the twilight years of his blossoming career, Ridyard has played across all levels of the game and has won the Championship on three separate occasions with his hometown club Leigh Centurions whilst establishing himself as one of the best half-backs outside of Super League.
Produced by the Leigh Miners Rangers club, he would make the move into the professional game with the Centurions and quickly established himself as one of the clubs first choice half-backs.
During his time at the Leigh Sports Village, Leigh twice won the Northern Rail Cup as well as the Kingston Press Championship.
Ridyard lifting the Tom Bergin Trophy as man of the match in the 2014 Championship Final and later receiving the Kingston Press player-of-the-year award.
Brief spells at Huddersfield on loan and then at Featherstone preceded his return to Leigh in 2019.
Across his two spells at Leigh, he amassed 250 appearances, 80 tries, 838 goals, 12 drop goals and more than 2,000 points.
Following the Centurions promotion to Super League in 2020, he would depart the club for one final time and sign with the Swinton Lions.
However, he would only last one season at Heywood Road as the Lions were relegated from the Championship with just two wins to their name before making the decision to follow Stuart Littler in joining Oldham following his departure from Swinton.
PREVIOUS MEETINGS (LAST FIVE MEETINGS ONLY)
16th June 2019: Oldham RLFC 28-4 Keighley Cougars
25th May 2019: Keighley Cougars 12-52 Oldham RLFC
13th July 2018: Keighley Cougars 15-8 Oldham RLFC
15th April 2018: Oldham RLFC 32-18 Keighley Cougars
28th January 2018: Oldham RLFC 52-6 Keighley Cougars
By Joshua Chapman