Hirst: Batley have overachieved

The Batley Bulldogs could book their place in the Qualifiers with victory against Swinton this weekend, which is a shock to most, according to captain Keegan Hirst.

“If you would have said to us at the start of the season that we could qualify for the Middle 8s on the last day, we would have bit somebody’s hand off,” Hirst admitted.

“For a club like us with one of the smallest budgets in the league it is a massive achievement but one which a lot of people probably didn’t expect.”

Despite the extra significance of the game against Swinton, Hirst insists they will carry on doing what they have done all season.

“I don’t think there will be any change to our approach. The lads know what’s at stake and we will just treat it like any other match.

“The beauty this year is that it is in our hands and so there is less anxiety around what other teams are doing.”

Swinton might have lost their last three games, but Hirst believes that is no reason for Batley to become complacent.

“Swinton and Featherstone are the only teams who have beaten us at home this year,” he said.

“They are a really good attacking team and beat us well when they came to our place so we won’t be taking anything for granted.”

If Batley do make the Qualifiers, there will be no pressure on the team because they weren’t expected to do so well.

“For all intents and purposes we shouldn’t really be there [Middle 8s] so we will be able to focus on going out and enjoying our rugby.

“All of the lads are really looking forward to testing themselves against the best.

“Some of the teams who will be in the Middle 8s have several internationals and players who have hundreds of Super League appearances so it is exciting.

“We will do what we have done all season because it seems to have worked pretty well.

“Our home record also gives us extra confidence whoever we might face.”

Hirst is delighted with what his team have done this season and thinks it is a brilliant achievement.

“I think it is Batley’s best season for the last three years,” he said.

“The club would have hoped we would have finished in the top six. In the past they have flirted with relegation.

“The way we have achieved a high level of consistency this year has been testament to the squad and the coaching staff.”

The Bulldogs will have a new coach next season as Matt Diskin replaces John Kear, and Hirst thinks Kear has done a great job since coming to the club.

“It will be a loss to the club but I think he is leaving Batley in a decent position and they will be a lot better off financially,” he said.

“A lot of the lads are signed up for next year and there is a great attitude throughout the club. Everyone loves playing for Batley and it’s been like that for years.”

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