Blows for Bulldogs

Blows for Bulldogs
A new job means that Reece Dean won't be joining from Hunslet 

BATLEY BULLDOGS were dealt a blow ahead of the start of pre-season this week with Reece Dean no longer signing for the club, joining Jack Downs in dropping out of their 2020 squad.

Dean, 22, had penned a deal to join from League One side Hunslet for next season, but the half-back has taken a new job which has caused him to terminate his contract with the Bulldogs at the start of this week.

Back-rower Downs, 24, had committed to another year with the club but his new job with the police means that he won’t be able to play rugby next season.

In addition, former player Danny Bravo, one of the non-contracted players set to be on trial during pre-season at Batley, is now more hesitant on training following his long-term injury.

“Reece Dean pulled out ahead of the first session,” said Bulldogs coach Craig Lingard. “He’s got a new job which means that he’s working offshore for a considerable amount of time, so it’s not possible for him to commit 100 per cent.”

On Downs, who joined Batley from Hull FC ahead of the 2019 season, Lingard said: “I found out fairly soon after I took over that although Jack had re-signed, he’d applied for the police service.

“He got the job quicker than we were expecting and part of the criteria is that you’re not allowed any secondary employment in your first 12 months. He’s had to terminate his contract as well.

“He might well come back (after that time) as he’s still only a young lad. He’s got a lot of years ahead of him to play at some level.”

Lingard added on Bravo, who has been out of action for the past three years: “He has let us know that he’s not going to come back down. He’s still concerned about his knee so he’s not 100 per cent confident.

“He’s been in touch with our physio and he’s having a bit of a rethink about it. It might possibly be that he comes down and we monitor him on a week-by-week basis.”

The withdrawals left Batley with a confirmed squad of only 20 players at the beginning of pre-season on Tuesday, and of particular concern are the key half-back and hooker roles.

There are only three players on the roster to cover the three positions – halves Danny Yates and new signing Ben White, and long-serving number nine Alistair Leak.

The Bulldogs have been frustrated in recent weeks in their approaches for a second hooker, and Lingard admits it is going to be difficult to fill these roles at such a late stage in the off-season.

“They are key positions and at the moment we’ve only got Alistair Leak as a hooker. As much as he can play long minutes, if he gets injured you’re down to no hookers so it’s imperative that we get someone in.

“We’ve only got two recognised half-backs so we need not only cover in that department but competition as well. That half-back position has opened up again so there is space out there for somebody else but half-backs are hard to come by at this stage of pre-season.

“The majority are already signed up so we’re talking to some clubs about potential season-long loans or bringing some people in on shorter-term deals, (but) there’s nothing close in that department.”

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