Rugby league preview: Northern's prop of ages

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The Independent Online
THIS IS a significant weekend for the Grayshon family, with father Jeff becoming the professional game's first 45-year- old player and his son Paul hoping to help Bradford Northern regain lost momentum.

Batley's Jeff celebrated his birthday last Friday, having already overtaken Joe Ferguson, a mere youth of 44 and a bit when he made his last appearance for Oldham in 1923.

His side will no doubt continue the surge that has brought them to the fringes of the Second Division promotion race at the bottom club, Highfield. It is less certain that his 26-year-old son will have a successful afternoon at nearby Warrington.

Paul Grayshon has established himself in Bradford's front row more securely this season than at any stage of a career that has been slow to get into top gear. His father has been at least partly responsible for that recent progress, guiding him through a training regime last summer that slimmed him down considerably from his previous fighting weight of more than 18 stone.

There was a time when Paul looked rather less like the modern model of a mobile prop forward than his dad, but his hard work during the off-season has gone a long way towards redressing that imbalance.

Jeff was also able, from his own long experience of playing under Peter Fox, to stress to his son just what the Bradford coach demands from his prop forwards. 'I just told him that if you want to play for Peter, you've got to do it Peter's way,' he says.

Grayshon junior has buckled down to doing it Fox's way by, for instance, losing the ball less often through over-ambitious attempts to pass out of the tackle - something his father was rather more adept at - and as a result has been picked for first team duty more regularly.

However, after their heavy defeat at Leeds in the Challenge Cup quarter-final last week, few places in the Bradford team are assured at Warrington today.

Given that Northern have still to play Wigan twice, they are the side with the better chance of stopping a fifth successive Championship going to Central Park, but they need to beat third-placed Warrington to maintain the pressure and make it a weekend of celebration for the Grayshon clan.

TODAY'S FIXTURES (3.0 unless stated) Stones Bitter Premiership Featherstone v Sheffield (3.30); Hull KR v Castleford (3.15); Leeds v Oldham; Leigh v Wigan; Wakefield v St Helens (3.30); Warrington v Bradford; Widnes v Hull. Second Division Barrow v Hunslet (3.15); Carlisle v Doncaster; Dewsbury v Workington (3.30); Highfield v Batley; Huddersfield v Swinton (3.30); Rochdale v Bramley; Ryedale York v London Crusaders (3.15); Whitehaven v Keighley.

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