JOHN KEAR and his side are on the verge of making history – and the Batley boss insists the Bulldogs would welcome another golden point thriller.
The Mount Pleasant outfit required a Ben Black drop-goal deep into extra-time to finally sink Leigh Centurions last time out, running out 15-14 winners.
And Kear is adamant his men would be unfazed by a dramatic case of déjà-vu.
The Bulldogs face 2011 champions and 2013 minor premiers Featherstone Rovers on Sunday (3pm) for a place in this year’s Championship Grand Final.
They will travel as rank outsiders, underdogs at the very least, but Batley are on the brink of greatness.
And head coach Kear believes the Bulldogs have what it takes to stun the game.
“This is without a doubt Batley Bulldogs’ biggest game for a number of years,” Kear told The Press.
“Winning the Northern Rail Cup in 2010 was a major achievement, but that was a knockout competition.
“This is 26 league games – plus a knockout competition. It could well be seen as the most important game in the club’s history.
“The players are prepared for anything and everything.
“If it goes to extra time again then fine, we have been there and got the t-shirt. I feel we can out-last any team in this division.
“Victory would mean a great to me, the club and most of all the players. I feel there is a growing confidence within the group and that can be dangerous.
“Featherstone are a great team and few will give us a chance, but that was very much the case last weekend too.”
The Bulldogs’ preparations received a setback, however, on Wednesday when winger Johnny Campbell was ruled out.
Campbell, 24, has been handed a one-match ban by the RFL after he submitted an early guilty plea in relation to what the governing body call a ‘Grade B’ high tackle offence.
His absence will force Kear into making at least one change for Sunday’s showdown, with Gareth Potts likely to be drafted in as a replacement.
But the former Super League and England head coach is keeping his cards close to his chest.
“It is extremely frustrating and it is a massive blow for us at this stage,” said Kear.
“Johnny has had a great season and his form of late has been sensational.
“He provides pace, he is good under the high ball, he returns the ball superbly, he can finish from just about anywhere and he can tackle too.
“We will miss him, but his absence gives Gareth Potts a huge opportunity to shine in our biggest game of the season.
“No team makes drastic amounts of changes in play-off games, but it will come down to a number of different processes.
“Like against Leigh, Tom Hemingway missed out because we felt we needed a full pack of forwards on the bench and the weather forecast certainly played a part.
“This weekend may be different, but we won’t confirm our 17 until we are sure. It will be a collective decision among the coaching staff.”
Meanwhile, forward Mark Applegarth is being given until Saturday to prove his fitness and Batley are expected to benefit from the availability of Huddersfield Giants Anthony Mullally, Josh Johnson and Jacob Fairbank.
“Mark has thrown his name in the hat once again, he is desperate to play, but that will come down to a late fitness test,” added Kear.
“We can’t afford to take any risks.”
By Ryan Sparks