Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Friday's Coming: Oldham

At last!

With the Kingstone Press Championship 1 season upon us, I don't know what you can glean from this year's NRC that will give you any real indication of what we can expect.

If the cold facts of the group tables are to be believed, Oldham are as almost as good over four games as NW Crusaders are over three - and London Skolars are the best team in the KPC1 with a 100% record and the biggest points difference. As for Hornets, juggle the conundrum of  two disappointing defeats to Oldham and the Crusaders, but still a postitive points difference - and still a better points difference than Oldham. Plus the fun of the obligatory dead rubber to come against the Skolars on Easter Monday. And all this for a chance to play in the NRC final curtain-raiser - they could've got four kids teams in to play tag for less hassle.

And so we come to the very serious business of kick, bollocking and scrambling our way out of this 'League of (Slow) Death™' by any means possible. That we start with a trip back to the Elysian Field that is Whitebank is an opportunity to put right that which went so spectacularly wrong t'other week in that pre-season warm up competition thing.

There's no doubt that Whitebank's idiosyncracies (a pitch that defies physics by sloping in all directions at once, a surface like Verdun, Spartan facilities and a view that requires a periscope) is worth a score each way up/down/across the slope, but one would imagine that a) Hornets couldn't possibly play as badly as they did in the NRC and b) Ian Talbot now knows what his best 17 is.

But, if reports are to be believed, the busiest person at Hornets this week has been our physio: Dayne Donoghue continues to struggle to shake off his knee injury, Wayne English is still under treatment for the eye injury picked up at Wrexham, Chris Baines and Alex Trumper are both carrying knocks and Mike Ratu's sprained ankle could see him sidelined for a few weeks - so Friday's game poses quite an interesting compendium of challenges.

Oldham come into the game having come away from the Gnoll with a half-decent if 'ugly' 24-12 win over the Scorpions - having been 4-nil down for much of the first half hour. Whether Hornets postponement works in our favour, given OIdham's five-day turnround remains to be seen.

Certainly Scott Naylor understands the importance of the A627M El Classico: "A game against Rochdale isn't an ordinary game" he said. And we agree.

It's a bit of a shame that one of world Rugby League's oldest rivalries gets played out in the 'forgotten' tier of the British game.  Yes, playing in KPC1 helps pioneer the game in new areas; yes the presence of Hornets and Oldham gives the competition the credibility it so desperately needs and, yes, it'll be a tight, nerve-shreddingly competitive season. But whilst we slug it out here, you can't help thinking that there's a better party happening somewhere else. Involving Hunslet, probably. Or Sheffield.

Rivalries aside, here's hoping that both Hornets and Oldham get the hell out of here at the first time of asking. It'll be better for our clubs, better for the game - and it'll piss off NW Crusaders in the process.