The first club to be featured in our Kingstone Press Championing the Championships campaign is Batley Bulldogs.
Batley were one of the founder members of the Northern Union back in 1895, and while all their major trophy successes came almost a century ago, the club remains one of the most fondly talked about in the game.
In recent years, they have become credible contenders in the Championship, first under the guidance of Karl Harrison and now under former Super League coach and two-time Challenge Cup winner John Kear.
They won the Challenge Cup again in 1900/01, and added the Rugby League Championship to their honours list in 1924, before 84 long years until their next silverware, the 1998 Trans-Pennine Cup win over Oldham.
Their stand-out moment in recent years was the 2010 Northern Rail Cup final triumph over Widnes. Winger Alex Brown scored two tries as they beat the Vikings 25-24 in front of 8,138 people at Bloomfield Road, Blackpool, making the club eligible to apply for a Super League licence in 2012.
But with the suggested changes to the structure of the game, Batley could soon make the step up.
Chief executive Paul Harrison told us: “It’s in the early stages, but it seems to be well thought out.
“It would be fantastic for Batley to be in it, and playing against so-called Super League clubs would bring in more finance.
“It would be difficult for us to step up, but as long as the finances are in place, we would seriously consider going full time.
“We will do what we have to do to keep moving forward. We’re currently looking at whether we can get a new stand to finish the stadium.”
Flying high in third place in the Kingstone Press Championship, Batley’s attention turns to the Northern Rail Cup this weekend, when they host Workington in the quarter-finals at the Loverugbyleague.com Stadium.
The final may be at a different venue this year, in the shape of The Shay at Halifax, but Harrison says the club are determined to replicate their 2010 success.
He added: “It was a fantastic day out. The club and the players want to get back to that. The venue has changed, but it’s much cheaper for clubs, and the cost of playing at Blackpool was just not financially viable.
“In the past few years, we’ve been in with a chance. We kicked on under Karl (Harrison). He brought Super League standards to us, and we’re hopeful we can sneak a trophy this year.”
Kingstone Press Cider has teamed up with LoveRugbyLeague to celebrate all things great about the rugby league Championships. For the rest of the season, ‘Championing the Championships’ campaign will put a weekly spotlight on each Championship and Championship 1 club to focus on their most memorable moments, look back at the clubs heroes and reward the loyal fans. Read more…