Batley boss bullish on future

Batley CEO Paul Harrison says it is exciting times for the Bulldogs as they seek to emulate their third place finish in 2017.

Batley were the surprise packet of the 2016 season, knocking off Leigh in round one and finishing third on the ladder, booking them a spot in the Middle 8s.

The 2016 campaign was the sixth and final season with John Kear as head coach at the part-time club.

“It was brilliant, John Kear told us he was leaving mid-season which I think spurred John on as well,” Harrison told Love Rugby League.

“He really wanted to leave on a massive high and to be honest it couldn’t have gone any better last season.”

Bradford assistant coach Matt Diskin has replaced Kear at the helm.

Harrison knows it will difficult to replace the experienced 62-year old but is positive about the future of the club.

“It’s going to be very, very hard, John’s done absolutely everything in the game,” he said.

“He’s been a true professional about his time at Batley and we’ve enjoyed every minute of his time being there but Matt’s a modern coach and an English coach, which is what we were looking for as well.

“A local kid, from the local area. There’s a lot of pressure on Matt, probably more on himself than coming from the club.

“We’re hoping to get a top six finish and if we could get in the top four then even better.

“We’ve been very fortunate at the club in the past with having Karl [Harrison] and John, Matt will as well. He’s really excited about the position.

“He could have stayed at Bradford, he probably would have took their head coaches job, but he thought it was a better fit coming to Batley for three years to learn his trade.

“And he’s wanting to kick on to coach higher, which if he does that he must have done a good job with us, so its a win-win situation.”

Batley have managed to keep the core of their 2016 squad together, with only Keegan Hirst headed to Wakefield and Chris Ulugia switching to Featherstone.

The Bulldogs have taken Greg Minikin and Will Maher on loan from Castleford, and signed Macauley Hallett from Swinton and Joel Farrell from Dewsbury.

“We’ve lost Chris Ulugia that was on loan from Bradford, he’s gone to Featherstone,” Harrison said.

“That’ll be a bit of blow but we’ve got some young kids in as well that Matt sees a lot of potential in them.

“With the backbone of the squad from last year its made Matt’s job a lot easier but we’ve still obviously got to get them wins. Its very difficult, it’s a very competitive league.”

Harrison said Batley have finished their recruitment for 2017.

“We’ve got 29, we’ve got a great partnership of dual reg with Castleford,” he said.

“It worked great last year because we have Greg Minikin with us, we’ve also got Jy Hitchcox gives us some great experience.

Tom Holmes the halfback will put pressure on Dom Brambani, Pat Walker and Cain Southernwood so it’s all good.

“We’ve got Will Maher who’s a giant up front, a straight swap for Keegan Hirst really.

“We’re hoping we’re going to be stronger this year than last season to be honest.”

Harrison is expecting a tougher Championship next year.

“Toulouse are a bit of an unknown quantity really, we’ve not done too much homework on them yet but I’m sure they’re full-time or are going to be,” he said.

Hull KR are the same, they should win the league hands down to be honest. London are a really good team and staying full-time you’d say they’d be in the top four and swinton they’ve got some really good players.

“I think they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with, especially early on in the season when the squad’s fully fit.

“There’s us, Dewsbury, Halifax and Featherstone probably all looking for one or two spots between us. It makes for a really exciting season, it’s great.”

 

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