BATLEY BOSS Matt Diskin admits he has been encouraged by the way his side have adapted to new structures in pre-season and has warned their Championship rivals that his squad has “plenty more room for improvement”.
Diskin has a 100 per cent record as head coach at Mount Pleasant following wins over Dewsbury on Boxing Day and Keighley last weekend, but Batley’s toughest warm-up match comes tonight (Friday, 7.30pm) against Castleford, in what will be the Bulldogs’ third and final pre-season outing before their Kingstone Press Championship campaign kicks off away at newly-promoted Toulouse on February 5.
“I’m suited with how our defence has improved of late, it’s been something we’ve been working hard on,” said Diskin.
“It showed that we’ve been working on it against Keighley, they didn’t really trouble us all game last weekend, but against Castleford we’ll need to step it up another gear if we can.
“Structurally we have also been strong but hopefully against Castleford we can be a bit smarter now we have another game under our belts.
“There are definitely still areas for improvement. Physicality is something that comes from the inside and we’re trying our best there, but there is lots more room for improvement which is really encouraging.”
This time last year John Kear’s acquisition of Dom Brambani and Pat Walker from Sheffield Eagles proved decisive as the legendary rugby league coach looked to boost his options at half-back.
The duo went on to become integral members of the Bulldogs squad which upset the odds to reach the Super 8s Qualifiers last term and Diskin acknowledges that the half-backs will be key for Batley again throughout 2017.
“I thought Brambani did really well against Keighley, as did Cain (Southernwood) and Pat (Walker),” added the Bulldogs chief.
“Dom needs to help himself by giving himself a little bit more depth so he’ll have more time on the ball which will help him create a few more opportunities for himself and others.”
Diskin was also impressed with off-season recruit Dane Manning and James Brown, who both returned to first team action following lengthy lay-offs against Keighley and could feature again tonight at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium against Castleford.
Diskin added: “Dane (Manning) and James (Brown) were excellent considering it was their first game back.
“They were a little rusty but that is understandable, they could have also been a bit smarter on occasions, but they were never going to be perfect on their returns.”
Meanwhile Batley’s new captain Dom Brambani is eager to get the new season underway as excitement builds ahead of the opening weekend of fixtures.
He said: “We’ve been showing steady improvement and we’re building nicely to the first game against Toulouse.
“We’ve been working on a lot of of new structures this year with Disko (Matt Diskin) coming in, but the boys are really buying into them and we’re looking sharp.
“The boys have trained really well in pre-season and we’re looking fit which is good.”