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‘Super League quality everywhere’ – Have Oldham built the greatest squad in League One history?

Rugby League has seen some incredible teams over the years with Super League often boasting the biggest and best of them, however for the 2024 campaign it looks like Oldham are set to have one of the greatest squads that League One has ever seen.

The Roughyeds failed in their goal of promotion last season finishing fourth in League One as Dewbsury Rams ran away with automatic promotion. Oldham got two bites of the cherry in the playoffs though but unfortunately fell short against eventual playoff winners Doncaster 36-0, and then North Wales Crusaders 13-12.

For the season to end in such devastating fashion with a one point loss at Boundary Park it’s fuelled a fire in those at the club, particularly Mike Ford who has returned to the club as Managing Director having been a star player back in the day.

Ford’s compiled a squad and coaching staff that highlights the huge ambition that he has for the club, acquiring several former Super League players for the 2024 campaign including ex-New Zealand international Elijah Taylor who has become the most recent recruit.

The playing squad for 2024 heralds just two players who remained from the initial squad that existed when the new board, including Ford, took over which indicates the revolution and rebuild that is happening for the club.

The man who will lead it in 2024 as head coach is Sean Long, a massive coup for the club, Long having led Featherstone Rovers for the majority of the 2023 campaign before parting ways despite having lost just a handful of games and the club flying high atop the Championship. Long now takes his talents to Boundary Park where he will have an incredible squad to work with, including some former Featherstone men.

Former Featherstone players that have signed for Oldham this season include former New Zealand star and ex-Salford Red Devils captain Elijah Taylor, the Kiwi having played in a Super League semi-final just two years ago thereby highlighting the class he has. Both Matty Wildie and Craig Kopzcak have also jumped on board having being two of 17 players that Featherstone released, both men of excellent Championship quality yet playing a tier below.

Oldham’s squad-building is very reminiscent of Leigh’s squad in the Championship during the 2022 campaign, throughout which they compiled the basis of what would be their 2023 Super League squad and therefore earned promotion easily, losing just once all season in the league.

Perhaps Oldham could go one better though and record an invincible season, something that has been done recently in League One with Keighley achieving the feat in 2022. The Cougars were flawless that season but it could be argued that Oldham have a superior squad for 2024, and League One is now a smaller competition too.

Players that will help in that pursuit of promotion, and possibly an invincible season, include former Leigh Leopard Joe Wardle who was part of Leigh’s incredible 2023 campaign. He’ll be a threat in the centres alongside fellow former Super League star Jordan Turner.

The Roughyeds also have the likes of Wigan Warriors product Logan Astley, the 20-year-old having joined permanently following an impressive loan spell last season, whilst former St Helens youngster Jumah Sambou will also feature for Oldham.

Managing Director Mike Ford discussed the new squad when releasing a statement on the club site in which he claimed recruitment still isn’t done, a worrying prospect for Oldham’s rivals in 2024.

“Needless to say, I am very happy that we have a squad for success and I am as confident as anyone can be in my position that we have a group of players, a head coach and a coaching team that can take us to where we want to go,” Ford explained.

“Recruitment is still not finished by the way. We have a squad of 24 currently and I would like to see us with 27 or 28 players judging by the number of players we’ve used in each of the last few seasons.”

Thus far the Roughyeds have compiled a squad littered with familiar faces, the team and Ford listing their backs and forwards as below.

BACKS: Jamie Ellis, Jordan Turner, Mo Agoro, Nick Rawsthorne, Jack Johnson, Jordan Paga, Ben O’Keefe, Kian Morgan, Danny Craven, Logan Astley, Jumah Sambou, Kieran Tyrer, Mackenzie Turner, Cian Tyrer.

FORWARDS: Emmerson Whittel, Josh Johnson, Joe Wardle, George Hirst, Brad Gallagher, Jay Chapelhow, Pat Moran, Owen Farnworth, Adam Lawton, Bailey Aldridge, Craig Kopczak, Matty Wildie, Elijah Taylor, Brad Gallagher.

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