PERMANENT DEAL: Paul Brearley has signed a one-year contract with Batley after impressing coach Matt Diskin on trial. The former Rochdale Mayfield back-rower, who stands at 6’7”, has played in all three pre-season fixtures so far and been described by Diskin as “a revelation to the group, both in training and on the field.”
BATLEY BULLDOGS coach Matt Diskin says everyone at the club has bought into the Yorkshire Cup as he prepares his side for the final this weekend.
The Bulldogs host Bradford Bulls on Sunday (January 20) to conclude the competition, which was resurrected this year as a pre-season tournament.
After seeing off Hunslet in the first round, Batley made it through to the final by coming back from 18-0 down to beat fellow Championship side York City Knights 22-18 last weekend.
Chairman Kevin Nicholas played a major role in bringing the competition back to life and Diskin says that the club will be striving to win it.
“I know it’s a friendly competition but the Yorkshire Cup is something that our chairman is a big supporter of and we are as well,” said the coach.
“We bought into that and said right along that we want to develop our game for the start of the year but also compete and win every game we take part in.”
Bradford stand in their way of the trophy, with the Bulls beating Halifax in the first round before narrowly seeing off Dewsbury Rams in last week’s semi-final.
The Bulls had to cut their team in half for the Rams game, with another friendly the following day, but their coach John Kear will have the full squad at his disposal when he travels to his former side this weekend.
Diskin warns that the Bulls, who were promoted out of League One at the first time of asking last season, are a dangerous outfit.
“Bradford are low-risk but they’ve got some very good quality individuals in their team, and if you switch off for any moment, like we did on two occasions (last week), they’ll burn us, so we’ve got to address that concentration element in our defensive line,” he said.
Coaches have largely rotated their squads throughout the Yorkshire Cup with the main focus on preparing for the league campaign, but Diskin admits that he has little room to do so.
“I haven’t got a mass of players to rotate so what you see will be very similar to next week,” he said following the semi-final victory.
“There’s nothing to hide; we haven’t got 30 or 40 players to rotate and pick from, but we’ll pick the best side there.
“We’ll still continue to try some combinations and things that we’ll use going forward this year, and see where that takes us.”
Diskin did express some concern about the size of his squad with the Championship season only two weeks away (February 3), but is satisfied with the quality in the team.
“What I have been encouraged by (in pre-season) is the performance of the whole group. I think it shows that we have got some decent quality there waiting to come in if needed,” he said.
“I’m still worried about numbers, we’ve only got 23-24 which isn’t a massive squad going into a season, but out of those I’m more than happy with the quality that we’ve got.”
Trialist Paul Brearley has become their eighth permanent signing of the off-season after signing a deal on Wednesday.
One of the new boys, Niall Walker, has yet to feature, and Diskin says that the former Hunslet outside-back is waiting for the all-clear from a specialist and hopes to have him available for the start of the season.
Fellow acquisition Danny Yates did make his debut last weekend against York, coming on at half-time and contributing to their comeback victory.
The ex-Rochdale Hornets man played alongside Dom Brambani in the halves with Louis Jouffret moving to full-back, and Diskin admits that the combination is a promising one.
“It can affect the fluency when you’re rolling different combinations, as we did with Brambani, Jouffret and Yates as pivots, but for the start of the second half it had a really positive improvement.
“We scored a couple of decent tries from that and it seemed to work, but we’ll analyse and look at it and see where and when we can utilise that combination this season if we choose to.”
Overall, the coach was pleased with the defensive performance on show against the Knights, but admitted that a couple of the tries scored by the visitors showed a weakness that needs to be
“York exposed a couple of our frailties in and around the ruck that we’ve been trying to work on over pre-season,” he said.
“We’ll work hard on them because we thought we’d cracked it but they’ve exposed them again, so we’ll look at that again in the coming weeks and try to sort that out before the season starts.
“Other than those one or two occasions where we switched off, defensively I thought we were very good. I thought we dominated the advantage line, restricted their metres, so defensively overall, even though there were 18 points on the board we weren’t that bad.
“Offensively we were way off, our skill was a bit scratchy, balls behind and balls in front, but the conditions (and) the bad wind affects that. But we showed a bit of character to find a way back into it, which puts us in a good position going forward.”
Tickets are on sale now for the final at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium, which kicks off on Sunday at 2pm.
Advance tickets can be bought online with adults priced at £13 and concessions at £8, with a £2 increase on the day and junior tickets available for free.