Batley duo target Castleford return

Bulldogs forward James Brown could feature in the friendly against Castleford.
Bulldogs forward James Brown could feature in the friendly against Castleford.

Batley Bulldogs forwards Dane Manning and James Brown will hope to figure in the club’s final pre-season friendly against Castleford Tigers on Friday, January 27.

Manning has been sidelined with a hand injury picked up when playing for Halifax last season, while Brown had an operation in close season, but both are nearing full fitness ahead of the new Championship campaign.

Bulldogs’ fans are looking forward to seeing Manning back in Batley colours after he re-joined from Championship rivals Halifax in the close season.

Both players are progressing well but it was felt this week’s scheduled game against a Bradford Select was too soon and coach Matt Diskin is not likely to risk them in next Sunday’s game against Championship One side Keighley Cougars.

Diskin said: “Brown and Manning continue to work hard in the physio room and will probably be ready to face Castleford, when it will be up to them to put their best foot forward.

“We are putting new systems and structures in place and it will be a challenge when they return to the side but I am confident in their ability.”

Diskin was due to play a strong squad against Bradford and admits he does not yet know what the starting 13 will be when the new Championship season begins next month.

Adam Gledhill and another new signing, Joel Farrell, look set to miss the remainder of Batley’s pre-season games having also undergone operations.

Diskin added: “We have a very good squad and competition for the starting 13 and at the moment I am not sure what that will be. It is a problem for me but one I am looking forward to.”

The Bulldogs squad enjoyed a team bonding weekend away in Ribblesdale when they took in some scenic walks and were handed problem solving activities.

Diskin added: “We took the players out of their comfort zones. There were no mobile phone signals but relationships were built and we also set out our goals for the season.

“We know there will be many ups and downs throughout the season but I’m sure our character will come to the fore and we want to get consistency in our performances.”

Keighley visit Fox’s Biscuits Stadium on January 22, with Batley’s final warm-up game against Castleford the following Friday before attentions switch the opening weekend of the Championship and a tricky trip to Toulouse.