Maher and Holmes will face Bulldogs

Batley's Brad Day drives at the Keighley defence during last Sunday's pre-season friendly.
Batley's Brad Day drives at the Keighley defence during last Sunday's pre-season friendly.

Batley Bulldogs will face the unusual prospect of coming up against two players who will play for them on a season long loan when Castleford Tigers visit Fox’s Biscuits Stadium tomorrow (Friday) kick off 7.30pm.

Highly rated half-back Tom Holmes and prop Will Maher will officially join Batley from the Tigers on February 1, along with full-back Jy Hitchcox.

Holmes and Maher both featured in Castleford’s pre-season friendlies against Hull and Wakefield and are in the Tigers 21-man squad tomorrow but Hitchcox is yet to feature having been sidelined by injury.

Bulldogs coach Matt Diskin is looking forward to seeing the Cas duo involved against his own team and believes both will be eager to stake a claim to be selected for Batley.

Diskin said: “There are quite good odds that you might see Tom and Will turn out against us for Castleford, which won’t be a bad thing from my point of view as I get the chance to see a different edge of competitiveness and I’m sure they will be wanting to outplay their opposite numbers to get a starting shirt.

“Castleford is another opportunity for me to have a look at them and the players.

“All need those minutes to give them the best possible showing of themselves to earn selection and get on that plane to Toulouse.”

Batley earned a second win of pre-season when they defeated Keighley Cougars 38-12 last Sunday and Diskin admits tomorrow’s match gives the squad a final chance to impress ahead of the first game of the new Championship season, away to Toulouse on February 4.

Diskin added: “James Davey was outstanding but all three half-backs in Cain Southernwood, Patch Walker and Dom Brambani were very good and Mick Hayward was outstanding at both wing and full-back.

“Micky is making sure that our other wingers and full-backs are having to perform well because if they don’t he is waiting to grab the opportunity.

“There is a real dilemma at half-back with Tom Holmes to be added in there as well.

“Dom is playing really well and is our captain but that doesn’t ensure selection so they have all got to play well and there is real competition for places in the first few weeks of the season and you might see some chopping and changing until we get the right combination that works.

“We won’t be the finished article for Toulouse and if anything you will find it will probably be a couple of months before we get to where we want to be but I am also aware we need to make a good start to the season.”

Diskin was pleased with his side’s display in last week’s win over Keighley but knows there are improvements to be made ahead of the opening league game at Toulouse on Saturday week.

Diskin added: “Offensively we took our opportunities well but we still need to fine tune things in certain areas. Our timing was a little bit off in some areas.

“The most pleasing thing for me was defensively, where we were very good.

“Keighley scored a try at the end of the first half but I was adamant Squires had grounded the ball from the kick.

“The second came from some weak contact, which was the first time in the game.

“We were clinical but could have had some more tries had we been a little bit smarter.”

Dane Manning and James Brown featured for the first time following injury and Diskin added: “James causes teams problems and is a handful and Dane Manning is tough in contact and they add mental strength to us.”