Oldham chairman Chris Hamilton hopes to have a new coach in place by the time Bradford visit on Sunday.
Former Super League and Great Britain hooker Matt Diskin departed with the Roughyeds in the Championship relegation zone after nine defeats in eleven league games this season and seven in succession, the most recent 18-4 at home to Dewsbury.
While assistant coach Brendan Sheridan has been taking training, the club say they are closing in on Diskin’s successor.
Diskin, 39, who played for Leeds and Bradford, where he had a stint as caretaker coach, was in charge at Batley between 2017 and 2019 and was appointed as Oldham coach in October 2019 in succession to long-serving Scott Naylor, who had just guided the club to promotion from League 1.
“This is never something I like doing and in this case I feel sorry for Matt, because the mistakes we are making are not down to coaching,” said chairman Chris Hamilton.
“They are costing us games, however, and we need to do something to get us into the dog-fight to stay in the Championship.
“Matt has worked very hard during his time at the club, most of which has been during Covid, which has been very difficult for a number of reasons.
“I’ve enjoyed working with him too, which makes this decision all the harder, but I have had to do what I think gives the club the best chance of moving forward.”
Oldham were without a game at the weekend after the cancellation of their match at Toulouse, which had been due to take place on Saturday.
Given the impact on jobs outside Rugby League of current isolation requirements for those returning from France, part-time clubs are currently not required to play in the country.
Oldham hope captain Gareth Owen will recover from a back injury in time to face Bradford at Bower Fold.
The 29-year-old made his 200th career appearance against Dewsbury. He has played 148 times for Oldham, where he signed in 2014, 15 for Sheffield and 37 for Salford.
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS‘ modest winger Gareth Gale insists his club record-equalling six-try haul against Newcastle had more to do with his teammates than his own finishing prowess.
The locally-born 28-year-old became the fourth player to achieve the feat for promotion-chasing Rovers as Thunder were beaten 68-12 at the Millennium Stadium.
Mike Smith managed it against Doncaster in 1968, Chris Bibb against Keighley in 1989 and Leeds hooker Brad Dwyer while playing on dual registration against Rochdale in 2018.
After a further try in Saturday’s 63-14 home drubbing of London Broncos, Gale’s haul for the current league campaign is 19 (teammate Craig Hall has 14 after a hat-trick against London).
But he was quick to hail the Featherstone pack along with his centre partner Josh Hardcastle and Samoa international scrum-half Fa’amanu Brown after the Newcastle clash.
“Our big forwards made some good yards to set the platform, then Josh and Nu (Brown) made my job far easier – I didn’t have to do much really,” said Gale.
It’s a second spell at the club for the former Featherstone Lions player, who cut short his stay in 2018 due to commitments away from Rugby League.
Gale returned on a two-year deal ahead of last season, when he scored one try in three games before the shutdown.
Featherstone had averaged 44 point a game in the league going into the London match and coach James Webster said: “To score 68 against Newcastle was fantastic.
“It was a tough start to the game, because they turned up pretty well. And they were without a few players, so we’re realistic with the scoreline.
“It was pleasing that we were patient and got through our sets well and that we scored a few unstructured tries, something we’ve being working on for a long period of time.”
Featherstone head to Widnes on Sunday before their big 1895 Cup final clash with York at Wembley on Saturday week, July 17.
WIDNES VIKINGS star Matty Smith wants to use his experience to push the opposition props around the pitch – and the Vikings to the play-offs.
The ex-St Helens, Wigan and England halfback – twice a Super League Grand Final winner and twice a Dream Team member – has switched to loose-forward with telling effect.
With Smith’s help, Simon Finnigan’s side had won four times in five league games going into Sunday’s match at Halifax.
The 33-year-old, who has also played for Salford, Catalans and Warrington (on loan), was picked out for praise by Bradford coach John Kear after Widnes’ 25-12 win at Odsal.
“I thought Matty was excellent for them. That field-goal goal just before half-time was really good,” he said.
“Then as the second half moved on, he kept rolling it into touch, which added to our frustration and ensured they remained in control of the game.”
Smith switched to loose-forward for the home clash with York, and although Widnes lost 35-14, their performance was a big improvement on the previous 70-0 defeat by Toulouse.
“We had a few injuries. We were missing experienced players and we were quite young in the middle. The talk wasn’t great on the field,” he explained.
“The thinking behind it was to get my voice around the middle, particularly in defence.
“In attack, my role hasn’t really changed that much. I play on the ball, I link Danny (Craven) and Joey (Lyons) up on the edge and I always played first receiver throughout my career in any case.
“My job’s been to move the ball around in the middle of the field, and move the opposition middles more than we were.
“As a fan and a player, you want to move the ball around and play good rugby. It gives me a role in the team and it’s going well at the moment.”
Stand-off Craven, 29, is fresh from signing a two-year contract extension at Widnes, who host Featherstone on Sunday.
DEWSBURY RAMS have made former Castleford centre or second rower Robbie Storey their latest recruit as they bid to climb away from relegation danger.
The 21-year-old, who left the Tigers at the end of last season, has joined Lee Greenwood’s squad after a 17-match spell at French side Carcassonne.
That included the 16-12 defeat by Lézignan in last month’s play-off final at the Stade Ernest Wallon in Toulouse.
A product of community club West Hull, he came through the Castleford development system and represented England at youth level before signing a full-time deal in 2018.
“When I knew I was coming home from France, Lee (Greenwood) contacted me and really sold the club to me,” he explained.
“Looking at the squad and the experience they have, especially in the halves, I believe it will be the perfect opportunity for me to develop my game further.
“I’m looking forward to getting stuck in and doing my best for the team.”
Greenwood, who has recently signed Keighley prop Dan Hawksworth and brought halfback or hooker Dom Speakman back for a third spell at the club, said: “I looked at Robbie at the end of the last season, but he made a great decision to go and play in France.
“He’s been a starting player in a Carcassonne team that finished top of the league. He’s strong and athletic and is a good addition for us.
“We are light on bodies at the moment, particularly in the positions that Robbie covers, so the timing has worked out well.”
Dewsbury went into their home clash with Sheffield buoyed by an 18-4 win at Oldham in which Featherstone prop Jimmy Beckett featured after starting a second loan spell of the season at the Rams.
Greenwood’s side go to Newcastle on Sunday before a Heavy Woollen derby at home to Batley on Thursday week, July 15.
NEWCASTLE THUNDER director of rugby Denis Betts spoke of the club’s long-term vision to build a squad made up mainly of players based in the North-East after Jake Anderson joined the ranks of Academy players to make a first-team debut.
The front rower from Gateshead came off the bench during the clash at Featherstone, where Thunder also fielded homegrown centres Alex Clegg and and Isaac Nokes.
Halfback Alex Donaghy has also featured this year while fellow Academy product, centre Evan Lawther, was named in an initial 20-man squad for the match at Rovers’ Millennium Stadium.
“Long term, it’s no good having a team of blokes who are dropped in, play, then leave for Yorkshire, Lancashire or wherever,” said Betts.
“We want Thunder to be a part of the area, and the ambition is to have lots of North-East players through all aspects of the club.
“We want players to live in this area, and to be part of the group and the community, and we want kids from the North-East to come through and play for Thunder.
“That’s why we have a flourishing Academy and local community game. Not all players will reach first-team level, but to create cream, you need milk, and we want a lot of milk at this club.
“It can’t happen overnight, but that’s what we are trying to move towards. There’s no finishing line, but we are committed to evolving.”
The side at Featherstone also included recent arrival Kyle Trout, the former Hull KR forward who has had a spell with French club Limoux.
Having visited York, Newcastle host Dewsbury on Sunday.
But the trip to Toulouse, rearranged for Saturday, July 17 after being postponed in May, has been cancelled under Covid travel guidelines.
Given the impact on jobs outside Rugby League of ten-day current isolation period for those returning from France, part-time clubs are currently not required to play in the country.
WHITEHAVEN coach Gary Charlton hailed ‘local legend’ Jessie Joe Parker after the popular Papua New Guinean chalked up his 200th appearance for the Cumbrian club.
Charlton said the versatile 35-year-old threequarter “rolled back the years” as he helped his side beat York 37-12 at the LEL Arena.
The 13-time capped Kumul, who featured in the 2008 and 2013 World Cups, played in Australia for Queensland Cup side Northern Pride before joining Featherstone in 2010.
A move to Wakefield fell through before he joined Whitehaven in 2012, making his debut in the 30-12 home derby defeat by Workington in Championship 1 in April 2012.
Whitehaven won promotion to the Championship that year, and Parker also contributed to the 2019 League 1 title success.
One of two Papuans in the current squad alongside Dion Aiye, who joined in 2015, Parker is in his testimonial season.
“He’s a good, experienced player with bags of enthusiasm, and it was great to see him reach the 200-match milestone,” said Charlton.
“Jessie is a pleasant, likeable kind of bloke, who is great around the place and also helps promote the club in the town, because so many people recognise him.
“He’s been a real asset to us over the years, he deserves his testimonial, and he still has a big part to play this season.”
Charlton believes the win over York was a confidence booster ahead of the key home clash with Swinton.
“We completed our sets well, our scrambling defence was good and we capitalised on our chances, which is pleasing,” he said after the third win of the league campaign.
“The lads have shown they can compete in this division, but it’s about backing up good performances and stringing some wins together.”
Australian prop Ryan King’s recovery from a knee injury is close to completion and he could feature in Sunday’s game at Halifax.
BATLEY BULLDOGS hope experienced winger Greg Johnson can help spark another run to a final after getting the Jamaica World Cup hopeful on board for the rest of the season.
And with Alistair Leak and Ben Kaye both carrying niggling injuries, Bulldogs coach Craig Lingard has also sealed a loan deal for teenage Leeds hooker Oli Burton to bolster a squad he described as being “down to the bare bones”.
The pair were both available for the derby at Bradford as Batley aimed to bounce back from their 22-12 home defeat by Halifax.
Former Super League player Johnson, 31, was a key performer back in 2013, when the Bulldogs reached the Championship Grand Final, going down 19-12 to Sheffield at Leigh.
The ex-Wakefield man scored 18 tries over the season to help earn a move to Salford, where he crossed 50 times between 2014-19.
Johnson, who has three caps and is in the initial Jamaica squad for the World Cup, was at Bradford last year, featuring twice.
This term, having trained at Batley, he’s been playing for London Skolars, with Lingard keeping a close eye on his performances.
“Having left Bradford, Greg contacted us and asked to train in order to maintain his fitness with the World Cup in mind, and we were happy to accommodate him,” explained Lingard.
“He was showing up well, and got the chance to play a few games for Skolars, and we saw enough to get him here for the remainder of the season.”
Burton, 19, has joined for an initial two-week spell which also covers Sunday’s visit of Toulouse, who have a 100 per cent record so far.
Lingard explained: “He’s a very promising player, but with the people in front of him at Leeds and the scarcity of Academy games, he isn’t getting much time on the pitch.
“The initial idea was to give him a taste of a first-team environment in terms of training, but with Alistair having a slight shoulder problem and Ben taking a knock to his Achilles, I wouldn’t hesitate to involve Oli after seeing him first hand.”
BRADFORD BULLS coach John Kear’s desire to keep old boy Joe Keyes beyond his initial two-week loan stint from Hull KR has been increased by another injury setback.
Promising youngster Billy Jowitt sustained a broken arm during the 25-12 home defeat by Widnes, the Bulls’ second loss in succession.
The 20-year-old, handed a first-team contract for this year after impressing in the Reserves, joins veteran Danny Brough, who is recovering following surgery on a torn bicep, on the sidelines.
Ireland international Keyes, 25, was at the Bulls between 2016-19 after moving from London Broncos.
He was available for the home derby with Batley and hooker Sam Hallas hopes his presence can help recapture the form which brought seven straight league wins earlier this season.
“He’s clever, he’s a calming influence and hopefully it will take a bit of pressure off Jordan Lilley,” he said.
Bradford visit Oldham on Sunday.
HALIFAX PANTHERS coach Simon Grix believes his play-off chasers should take real heart from their win at Batley.
The Panthers plundered three tries in the last 16 minutes, including the two which completed stand-off Liam Harris’ hat-trick, to hit back from six points down and win 22-12.
“It was a really big win,” said Grix, whose side went into their home clash with Widnes in sixth place.
“I was proud of their efforts, commitment and togetherness and I think it was our best second-half performance of the season.
“We’d not been so good in the first half, but there was no need for the hair-dryer treatment, because the lads knew what they were doing wrong.
“I could hear them talking about it before I went into the room. We knew we were still in the game, and that if we switched on, we would get some opportunities.”
Halifax are at home to Whitehaven on Sunday.
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE are waiting for an RFL verdict on whether the four home matches which remain on their fixture list could go ahead.
Saturday’s scheduled visit of Oldham was cancelled, while the home clash with Newcastle on Saturday, July 17 has suffered the same fate.
It follows the government’s latest review of foreign travel, under which France remains on the amber list, meaning a ten-day quarantine period is required on return to the UK.
The RFL had already ruled that until the guidelines are sufficiently eased, part-time teams will not be required to play in France due to the impact on jobs outside the game.
The Oldham and Newcastle games were cancelled rather than postponed because there are no available slots for a rearrangement.
Table-topping Toulouse are due to play home games against Dewsbury on July 24, Halifax on August 14, Batley on August 28 and York on September 11.
The RFL say they will make decisions about those matches after the next government update, which is due in around a fortnight.
Toulouse, who have played seven matches in the UK and been awarded a 24-0 home win over London Broncos after the full-time capital side chose not to travel to France, have six remaining regular-season away games, starting with Sunday’s visit to Batley.
YORK CITY KNIGHTS have taken Warrington halfback Riley Dean on loan again, helping cover the return of Jamie Ellis to Leigh, and brought back winger Perry Whiteley from his temporary spell at Featherstone.
Former England Academy player Dean, 19, had been recalled by the Wolves and featured in the 44-18 home Super League win over Leigh.
Now he’s back at the LNER Stadium after experienced Ellis, 31, returned to Leigh after two outings for the Knights, who went into their home clash with Newcastle seeking a first win in five league games.
“Riley’s been with us, he was keen to come back and we were keen to get him back,” said York chairman Jon Flatman, whose club head to Wembley for the 1895 Cup final clash with Featherstone on Saturday week, July 17.
“He has a tremendous future in the game. We are pleased to play a part in his development and we look forward to Riley stepping up and delivering Super League performances as he did for Warrington against Leigh.
“We know Riley’s getting better every game and we’re really proud to have him back.”
York head to London Broncos on Sunday.
SHEFFIELD EAGLES winger Travis Corion is keen for further first-team opportunities.
The 20-year-old closed-season recruit from Huddersfield has plenty of competition for a place in the shape of experienced duo Rob Worrincy and Ryan Miller.
But the pace merchant has faced both Widnes, scoring his first try for the Eagles, and Toulouse in recent weeks.
“It’s taken off quicker than I thought,” he said ahead of the visit to Dewsbury. “I wasn’t expecting to get as many games as quickly as I have done.
“Injuries (in the squad) have allowed me to get in there and I’ve tried my best to make a point and do the best that I can.
“I’ll just go with the flow and try my best week in, week out.”
Corion reckons the performances were better than the results at Widnes, where Sheffield lost 30-20, and at home to Toulouse, who won 54-6.
“As a team, we’re doing okay, we are getting a few of the injured players back slowly,” he said.
“In terms of confidence, it’s come together and the morale has gone up around the place.”
Sheffield head to Swinton on Sunday.
LONDON BRONCOS winger Gideon Boafo believes both he and his club are on an upward trajectory, despite Saturday’s 63-14 setback at Featherstone.
Coach Danny Ward is desperate to lead the capital team, who aim to respond in their home game against York on Sunday, back to Super League after relegation in 2019.
And the 22-year-old Academy product, who scored a first Championship hat-trick in the recent 38-24 home win over Swinton, wants to play his part.
“I share the club’s ambition and feel that with every minute I play, my personal game is improving,” he said.
“When I make mistakes, I am working hard to ensure I correct them. Importantly, I feel as though I am enjoying every minute I play which must have a positive impact on my overall performance.
“In the short term, I want to be playing at eight or nine out of ten every time I go on the field. We’ll need those types of performances if we are to realise our dream of winning promotion.”
Croydon-born Boafo was one of ten Academy graduates in the Broncos’ 17 against Swinton.
SWINTON LIONS coach Stuart Littler says curing his side’s sluggish starts to games could help provide a big final scoreline.
The Lions went into their match at Whitehaven, with a squad including new pack recruit James Mason, a former Gloucestershire All Golds, Coventry and England Students player, still seeking a first league win after a 38-24 loss to London Broncos.
Swinton recently lost 36-30 at home to Newcastle after being 30-18 behind at the break, and Littler said: “We need to improve how we begin games.
“We’re starting slowly too often, and while we improve as things go on, we’re giving ourselves too much to do.
“This is an honest group who are working hard on the training field, and we know one win could change things for us.”
Littler continues to look for loans to bolster his squad, but says the impact of Covid means clubs are less willing to let players out at the moment.
Swinton host Sheffield on Sunday.
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