MATT Diskin aims to add quality over quantity to his squad prior to pitting his wits against former Australian Test coach Tim Sheens for Oldham Roughyeds’ 2020 Betfred Championship opener against Widnes Vikings.
Diskin’s selection options for the big kick-off against the one-time world club champions at Stalybridge on February 2 are already limited.Last season’s League One play-off winners recently recruited Matthew Fletcher after the Waterhead teenager’s return from Australia.
But Diskin will definitely be without Ben Davies and Jode Sheriffe for the Vikings’ visit while John Hutchings and Cameron Leeming are doubtful.
Despite lack of numbers Oldham have secured pre-season wins over Barrow and a youthful St Helens side but gave a poor performance and could not get out of jail in the Law Cup defeat by Rochdale Hornets.
“We are doing some real quality things and we have got some exceptional quality in the squad that will cause a few upsets,” said Diskin.
“But we are light because we haven’t got enough depth. We only have 21 players and probably need another four or five.
“We are too light to compete in the Championship as the season goes on.
“We are going to have to start well, have a bit of fortune on our side and stay injury free. Then we will have a good crack.”
Diskin, the former Bradford, Leeds and Hull KR hooker who replaces Scott Naylor at the helm this term, added: “We are knocking on doors and there are players available.
“But we don’t want to fill up spots up for the sake of it. We want to bring in quality people who will compete for places not fill a squad number.”
Despite the challenges posed by his new job the former Batley Bulldogs coach is excited by the prospect.
“It has been refreshing for me,” he told the Correspondent at the Championship launch in Huddersfield.
“Leaving Batley was hard. I would have liked to have stayed there a bit longer at the time.
“But stepping back and assessing it was probably the right decision.
“I can take those lessons into the job here at Oldham by fine tuning my approach. I am really enjoying it and the boys have been reslly receptive.”
Danny Bridge scored two of Roughyeds’ six-tries in a 32-12 victory over a Saints Select at the Vestacare Stadium.
Fielding eight young first-team squad members and a raft of reserve-team players and Academy internationals, led around the field by the more experienced Matthew Costello, Paul Crook and Joe Batchelor, Saints led 12-10 before Roughyeds exploded into life in the last ten minutes.
Twenty-two late points with tries by Bridge (2), Kyran Johnson and Harry Aaronson, plus three conversions by Dave Hewitt rocked Saints and gave Roughyeds a 32-12 triumph.
Fletcher, a ball-playing forward who has returned home after playing for Valleys Diehards and Norths Devils in Brisbane, was another to impress.
A Roughyeds fan since he was a small boy, Fletcher has signed for two years after learning his trade at Waterhead, Bradford Bulls Academy and then in Australia, where he would have stayed longer had his visa not expired.
“I loved it there – absolutely loved it,” said the youngster. “But I had to come home when my visa expired and I told my agent in Australia that Oldham would be the club for me if I had a choice.
“I’ve supported Roughyeds since I was a boy; I know Gareth Owen and Danny Bridge; I know Matt Diskin from our Bradford days; and I’m back living in Oldham so it made sense to sign for my home-town club if I got the opportunity.
Diskin said: “Matthew is a real talent. As a boy he played as a half-back but in more recent years, as he’s got bigger, he plays as a forward through the middle channels but he’s still got his ball-handling skills and he has a good offload.”
Fletcher first started playing as a nine-year-old at Saddleworth Rangers, but he was soon at Waterhead, where he remained until he was 16.
At the age of 14 he joined Featherstone on scholarship and from 16 to 18 he was on semi-pro terms at Bradford, playing in the Academy and the Reserves teams.
Added Matthew: “I consider myself a Waterhead lad through and through so it will be great to be playing alongside Gaz Owen, Danny Bridge and Phil Joy. I can’t wait.
“Funnily enough, there was a time when I used to play a bit of football too for Stalybridge Celtic. So, how’s that for a coincidence, given that Roughyeds will be at Bower Fold this season?
Oldham’s first away league game is at Toulouse on Saturday, February 8. Kick-off is now 6pm at Stade Ernest-Wallon, home of rugby union club Stade Toulousain.
This is followed by Whitehaven away, Sunday, February 16. Kick-off is now 6.15pm for purposes of live streaming by OuRLeague.
The away trip to Sheffield Eagles on Wednesday, April 15, kicks-off 7.45pm. Fans should note, however, Sheffield’s new home at the Olympic Legacy Park won’t be ready by then.
So, the Eagles first three Championship home games, including the Oldham game, will be played in Doncaster at the Castle Park home of Doncaster Knights RUFC, Armthorpe Road, Doncaster DN2 5QB.