Batley Bulldogs coach John Kear believes the Kingstone Press Championship will provide the best competition yet, with quality throughout every team.
Batley have won all three pre-season matches, against Dewsbury Rams, North Wales and Hunslet Hawks, but kick off with arguably their toughest home game of the season when Leigh Centurions visit Fox’s Biscuits Stadium on Sunday.
Speaking at the Championship launch in Manchester on Monday, Kear said: “The standard of the competition is as high as it ever has been and you only have to look at the quality players involved.
“You look along the line-ups and you have Jarrod Sammut at Workington and Micky Higham at Leigh and you could go to every club and say he’s a good player and he’s a good player.
“Leigh have a stellar squad and quality throughout and there are four full-time teams in the competition.
“Preparation has never been better for the teams and the playing rosters have never been better so the standard is going to be the highest ever,”
Leigh were left stunned when coach Paul Rowley resigned last Thursday due to personal reasons having guided the Centurions to back-to-back Championship successes.
Rowley had signed Super League players Rangi Chase, Corey Paterson, Harrison Hanson and Willie Tonga ahead of the 2016 campaign, but in a statement released, he said: “My reasons for leaving are personal and I will not comment further in public or in private.
“I thank the players for everything they have given me and the club. My only regret is that I will not be there this year to lead them once more.”
The Centurions acted swiftly to appoint Neil Jukes with the job of trying to guide them to Super League.
The 39-year-old former player, who has been on the backroom staff at Leigh since 2009, was promoted from the role of assistant on the recommendation of Rowley.
The Centurions are expected to take a large following to Batley for Sunday’s opening game but the Bulldogs are urging Batley fans to turn up in numbers to back Kear’s men.