Batley Bulldogs coach Matt Diskin admits he is relishing the chance to see his side in action for the first time when they lock horns with Dewsbury Rams in the traditional Boxing Day showdown.
Diskin sees the game as a vital part of his side’s pre-season programme and knows the importance of claiming the bragging rights in his first game as Batley coach.
Diskin said: “I don’t think the game comes too early, especially in my first year in charge.
“We have many new systems and processes which we will be testing out and then we can look at errors and fine tune things.
“The players are certainly looking forward to it. We will blow away the Christmas cobwebs with a competitive game.”
Diskin has been an interested observer at several Heavy Woollen Christmas derbies in recent years and is hoping to be celebrating claiming victory with a festive tipple on Boxing Day afternoon.
The coach added: “This is not just a game to fit into the calendar. I have been to the Boxing Day game for the last five years, whether its been at Batley or Dewsbury.
“I know the supporters look forward to it and I certainly want to be able to go out and enjoy a couple of shandies on Boxing Day afternoon, so we will be definitely going out to get the win.”
Adam Gledhill and James Brown have had operations in the close season and are unlikely to be risked on Boxing Day, with their return put on hold until the new year.
Dane Manning, who signed from Championship rivals Halifax last month, is recovering from a broken thumb and will also miss out but some of Batley’s fringe players are certain to feature as Diskin gets a first look at his new squad.
Batley won last year’s Boxing Day derby 12-4 at Tetley’s Stadium, retaining the Roy Powell Trophy, and they went on to beat the Rams in all three Championship games.
Batley won 44-30 at Dewsbury on Good Friday and took the spoils from a hard-fought 28-24 victory at the Summer Bash in Blackpool before going on to secure an 18-16 success at Fox’s Biscuits Stadium in June.
Following the Rams clash, Batley will face home games against sides from each of the three divisions.
They welcome Bradford Bulls to Mount Pleasant on Sunday January 15 and League One outfit Keighley Cougars on January 22 (both kick off at 2pm) with Super League outfit Castleford Tigers the visitors on Friday January 27 (ko 7.45pm).