Bulldogs Quartet near full fitness

Tom Lillycrop has a run halted during Batley's 28-18 Boxing Day victory over Dewsbury.
Tom Lillycrop has a run halted during Batley's 28-18 Boxing Day victory over Dewsbury.

Batley Bulldogs coach Matt Diskin admits he will have a selection dilemma ahead of the new Kingstone Press Championship season.

James Brown and Adam Gledhill, along with new signings Dane Manning and Joel Farrell, have all had operations in the close season but are nearing full fitness.

Full-back Dave Scott also missed Monday’s derby victory over Dewsbury Rams having been given extra time off following his exploits with Scotland in the Four Nations competition.

Batley have three pre-season friendlies before the new campaign begins with a trip to Toulouse Olympique on Saturday February 4.

The Bulldogs squad will have a team bonding weekend near the Three Peaks in early January before facing pre-season games against Bradford Bulls (January 15), Keighley Cougars (January 22) and Castleford Tigers (January 27).

Diskin said: “James Brown, Joel Farrell, Dane Manning and Adam Gledhill all had operations on problems they were playing with last year and we made a decision as a club to get them sorted so they are fresh for the season.

“They will all be ready for the first league game but the problem they may have is that they may struggle to get a friendly in and these kids who did well on Boxing Day could get the first chance.”

Brown was one of Batley’s stand out performers last season, while Manning returns for a second stint at the club following a successful spell at Championship rivals Halifax.

Diskin added: “It’s a massive dilemma with the squad we have but one I’m happy to have and it makes sure that every game and every training session has to be intense because there will be players waiting to come in and tugging at their shirts to get in.

“The squad has plenty of depth and the lads who, some will say as being on the fringe — Bravo, Hill and O’Sullivan — I thought played really well, they stood up and have made our jobs harder because they have put their hands up for selection.

“Pre-season so far has been very defensively oriented and we will now look forward to getting more ball in hand which will make these guys, who are very talented, very hard to defend against.”

Batley’s 28-18 derby success over Dewsbury on Monday was their fifth successive Boxing Day win as the Bulldogs retained the Roy Powell Trophy and ensured Diskin began his reign as head coach on a triumphant note.