Esders and Faal to make debuts

Ryan Esders
Ryan Esders

NEW signings Ryan Esders and Ayden Faal will make their Batley Bulldogs debuts in Sunday’s pre-season friendly against Keighley Cougars at the Stadium, Mount Pleasant (kick off 2pm).

The two centres switched from Dewsbury Rams, along with hooker George Flanagan, during the close season but did not feature in the Boxing Day derby against their former club.

Faal had undergone a wrist operation and needed an extra couple of weeks’ fitness work before playing, while Esders missed out with a slight hamstring strain but both will play on Sunday.

Danny Whitmore, who was named on the bench for the Boxing Day clash, will get a chance to stake a claim for a place at hooker on Sunday, while robust prop Byron Smith returns having been rested for the Dewsbury game.

Although Batley defeated the Rams 28-18 to lift the Roy Powell Trophy, coach John Kear has targeted areas of improvement for his side to work on as they build towards a gruelling 26-match Championship campaign.

Kear said: “Trial games are all about showing progress and we have identified around half a dozen areas which we need to work on.

“Pre-season is all about progressing as individuals and as a team and gives a chance to experiment with different combinations.

“Trial games are about improving performances but it’s also nice to get the wins to boost confidence.

“As coaches we moan about the number of games but when you are a player you just want to be playing. We just have to make sure they are ready physically and mentally for the start of the season.”

Jay Leary came off the bench against Dewsbury and had his first taste of what Championship rugby will be like.

There are just three weeks to go until the start of the Championship season and it is ironic that Batley will begin at home to Paul March’s Cougars.

Keighley suffered a 42-16 defeat to Halifax on Boxing Day but bounced back with a 23-20 success at Barrow last weekend and should provide the Bulldogs with a decent test as both sides continue to build towards the season proper.

Danny Maun had a highly successful clear-out operation on a troublesome knee on Monday.

He will be at The Mount on Sunday to cheer on his teammates and will then begin his rehabilitation, although he is set miss the start of the season.