Hirst credits cunning Kear for Batley’s rise

Batley Bulldogs prop Keegan Hirst believes one of the main reasons for the club’s success in the Championship this season has been coach John Kear.

The forward credits Kear with having the depth of game knowledge required to identify the strengths of Batley’s small squad, and come up with plan to deploy them to maximum effect.

Batley begin their Qualifiers campaign with a trip to face Hull KR this weekend, and Hirst feels that getting into the Middle Eights has been a great reward for the club as a whole.

The prop himself has been left out of the squad for the trip east, but backs Kear to come up with a plan to test the Robins.

“He is a wily old character, he’s old school,” Hirst told Love Rugby League.

“He’s a great coach. You talk to him and realise that he has a great understanding of rugby.

“He has a certain style, that maybe other coaches don’t have, that’s worked for us.

“He’s played to our strengths and that’s what a smart coach does.

“We work hard as a team, we get our heads down and we complete.

“We’re not going to be throwing the ball about in our own 20, it’s maybe not always exciting rugby.

“But we know how to grind a win out and win ugly – that’s one of the main things we’ve done this year.

“It’s a really well run club. All they’ve done is make a couple of little tweaks from last year.

“It’s a real reward for not just the players and coaching staff, but for the fans and the people behind the scenes at the club as well.”

Having players of the quality of Scotland international full back David Scott at the club has also helped the club, according to Hirst.

“He’s been solid at the back,” he agreed.

“We’ve had great individual performances consistently all season.

James Brown, Dom Brambani and Patch Walker have all had really good seasons too, as well as Dave Scott.

“They’re all in key positions. So when your playmakers play really well, it makes it easier for everyone else to do their jobs.”

The addition of Dominic Brambani and Pat Walker, who joined from Sheffield Eagles in the close season, has been crucial to turning the Bulldogs into a winning team, Hirst believes.

“Last year, although we finished down near the bottom of the table, we were only losing games by six to eight points,” he explained.

“They’ve come in and their game management and understanding of the game has just turned it so that we’re winning those games rather than losing them.

“Suddenly we’re in the top four. They know their craft, they know what they’re doing.”

The 28-year-old front rower is also looking forward to the challenge of playing against Super League opposition, and he expects the main issue to be the speed at which the top tier teams can play.

“A lot of lads who come down to the Championship from Super League on dual reg say that the Championship is physical,” he said.

“It’s a bit slower, so you maybe have that little bit more contact. Super League is faster.

“That speed is what we’re going to have to look out for.

“But you always want to challenge yourself against the best players. We pride ourselves on having a really good pack this year.

“So we’ll look to keep that up and try and be a dominant pack in the Middle Eights.”

As for Batley’s prospects in the Qualifiers, Hirst insists that the pressure is off John Kear’s side, and they can relax and relish the challenge.

That does not mean that they will not be looking to cause a shock somewhere along the line, however.

“We’ll relish the underdog label,” he said.

“There’s no pressure on us to do anything, but we’re not here to make the numbers up.

“You can’t really look too far down the fixture list or you’ll come unstuck.

“We’ll just concentrate on that Hull KR away game.

“We need to give them that extra respect. These guys aren’t Sheffield – they’ve not just gone full-time – they’ve been at it for a while.

“You’ve got international and NRL players in there.

“So it’s a challenge, but if we turn up and go about our business like we have done all season, then we’ll certainly give a good account of ourselves.

“It might not be us, but there will be a shock result somewhere in the Middle Eights.

“John Kear being John Kear I’m sure he’s wanting that.”

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