OLDHAM Roughyeds have been handed an unexpected chance to reach Wembley after rugby league bosses introduced a new knockout competition for next season.
As well as competing in the Challenge Cup, Roughyeds will also contest the newly created 1895 Cup featuring Championship and League One clubs.
The final will be played on the same day as the 2019 Challenge Cup final on Saturday, August 24.
Full details will be announced with the Betfred Championship and League One fixtures on Sunday, November 25.
All but one of the 12 English Championship clubs have previously won the Challenge Cup, sharing a total of 30 Cup wins.
In addition, three League One clubs – Hunslet, Oldham and Workington Town – are also former Challenge Cup winners, although in Oldham’s case famously never at Wembley.
Rugby Football League chief operating officer, Ralph Rimmer said: “With the 1895 Cup, we want to recognise the contribution of our non-Super League clubs to the game’s history since its founding as the Northern Union 123 years ago – and provide an exciting new chance for their players and supporters to taste the magic of Wembley.”
Coach Scott Naylor has been busily re-shaping his squad for next season with the acquisitions of Aaron Jones-Bishop from Doncaster and Anthony Bowman from Rockingham Sharks in Western Australia. Both have agreed 12-month contracts.
Meanwhile, Moorside-based Gareth Owen will again skipper new-look Oldham in the 2019 Betfred League 1 campaign.
The 26-year-old hooker has signed another one-year deal and will lead the side for a third successive season.
Owen’s first season as captain – 2017 – was marred by a freak foot injury which side-lined him for almost a year.
Owen, who played more than 30 Super League games for Salford Red Devils earlier in his career, admitted last season was a big disappointment despite making the play-off semi-finals.
“It’s been said many times before and by many other players, but we lost too many tight games by very few points,” he said.
“It was that inability to win those close games that ultimately cost us dearly.
“On a personal note I’m over the moon to sign and to be offered the captaincy again. As long as Oldham wanted me I wasn’t going anywhere.
“I’m starting to enjoy the role of captain and all the extra responsibility that comes with it.
“Hopefully I can do a good job for the lads next year and together we can get the club where we want to be in the Championship.
“We’ve lost some good players but the new signings we are making are exciting (Danny Grimshaw, Ben Calland and Richie Hawkyard so far, with more expected soon) and hopefully they will improve us.
“If they do the job they’ve been signed to do, they’ll help us to get up into the Championship.
“These men are not coming to fill gaps. They’re experienced players who are coming to improve us. It’s all very positive and very exciting.”
Naylor said: “When we were looking at who we wanted to stay at the club next year Gaz Owen was right up there.
“You always think lads like him, local, loves the club, loves the town, will want to stay, but you can never be sure.
“It was great news to hear that he was staying and also to hear that he was happy to continue with the captaincy.
“He’s an integral part of the team and I thought he grew into the captaincy last season.
“He became a leader with a calming influence both on the field and in the dressing rooms. It was very important that he stayed with us.”