James Brown previews Batley Bulldogs' Championship season - plus star man, ins and outs, title odds and key number
JAMES BROWN believes that Batley Bulldogs’ squad for the upcoming campaign is as strong as the one that earned them a third-place finish in 2016.
The Batley captain joined the Bulldogs in 2015 and was part of the side that upset the odds five years ago to break into the top four and compete in the Super League Qualifiers.
A number of former Super League players such as Tom Gilmore, Jodie Broughton, Kieran Buchanan and Jack Logan have all joined the club along with some promising younger talents.
Brown praised the “shrewd” nature of the recruitment and believes it has given Batley a puncher’s chance of upsetting the odds again this season.
“The club has got a good atmosphere at the moment, everything has been great so far,” he said.
“I am quietly confident we will do really well this year. I rate it as good as the 2016 team that got us into the top four.
“The club has gone about their business really shrewdly. We haven’t got a massive budget like the clubs at the top end of the division but we have signed some quality players.”
Of the new arrivals, Brown continued: “They have all come in and settled really well.
“Some players struggle when they go from full-time to part-time but they have found their feet straight away.
“They have just blended into the squad.”
There will be no dual-registration in the Championship this year owing to Covid-19 which has led to a number of second-tier sides adding more depth to their squads.
Brown believes there is no room for respite this year, as the Bulldogs kick off their league campaign against Featherstone Rovers on Good Friday.
“There are some really, really good players in the Championship this year,” said Brown.
“Featherstone and Toulouse have built some really strong squads. It is going to be tough .
“We are under no illusions. We know that we are not going to walk any game.
“If you go to Swinton or Oldham away, they are always tough games because everyone is looking for points.
“It is a dogfight everywhere you go.”
The opening weeks of the season will be played behind closed doors but supporters could be back in limited capacity from May 17.
Batley’s first game in front of fans, if the Government presses ahead with the May 17 date, will be against rivals Dewsbury Rams.
The pair haven’t played competitively since 2019 and Brown is excited by the prospect of getting back in front of supporters on May 23.
Brown added: “The Heavy Woollen Derby is always a bit of a feisty one. The fans aren’t the best of friends.
“It will be a cracker.”
BATLEY BULLDOGS 2021
Ins: Kieran Buchanan (Hull FC), Elliot Hall (Workington Town), Jodie Broughton (Halifax), Tom Gilmore (Halifax), Ben Kaye (Free agent), Joe Sanderson (Hunslet) Josh Tonks (Hunslet) Jack Logan (Doncaster RLFC).
Outs: Tyler Dickinson (Sheffield Eagles), Shaun Lunt (Barrow Raiders), Shaun Pick (Oldham), Dave Scott (Coventry Bears), Jo Taira (Rochdale Hornets), Keenan Tomlinson (Dewsbury Rams).
Last year: 9th place (season cancelled after five games)
Player to watch: Jodie Broughton - The 33-year-old has over 100 Super League appearances and could prove a big signing for the Bulldogs in 2021.
Odds to win Championship - 66/1