BATLEY BULLDOGS will see a host of players return to their squad for their crunch match with Whitehaven at the Recreation Ground on Sunday (3pm).
Free-scoring Johnny Campbell returns after missing a large chunk of the season with an ankle injury, while stand-off Cain Southernwood will play against his former side.
Whitehaven currently sit ninth in the Kingstone Press Championship table, behind Batley on points difference, with both sides registering just four leagues wins all season.
The return of Southernwood in particluar will be a boost for John Kear, who joked about the number of times he has had his first-choice playmakers this year.
“I won’t know what to do with two half-backs. I think it’s the fourth time I’ve had my two half-backs together all season, but they’ve been out with serious injuries so we’ll look after them and introduce them into the game,” he said.
The return of Campbell will be a boost for the Batley boss as he revealed full-back James Craven could be out for four weeks.
“Unfortunately James was injured in the game against Leigh and could be out for a month, which is a major blow, and Lee Mitchell needs assessing.”
Mitchell, another former Whitehaven player, may need an operation and could be out for up to six weeks after suffering a knee injury in a freak accident in training.
Another player that won’t feature this weekend is prop Alex Rowe, who was called up to the Malta squad for their game against Belgium, but Kear says Rowe won’t feature for them either.
“Alex won’t be playing for us or Malta because he’s in Barbados at his mother’s wedding – which we gave him permission for at the start of the season,” Kear said.
He will be replaced in the squad by Keegan Hirst after the Bulldogs captain missed the team’s defeat to Leigh last weekend.
Tom Lillycrop, who was sent off in the same game, is also available as his ban does not start for another 10 days.
James Brown and Sam Scott also come back into contention after missing the game against the Centurions through sickness and injury respectively. While centre Elliot Cosgrove will return after rolling his ankle in the defeat to London.
Despite defeats to the Broncos and Leigh, Kear says he was pleased with his side’s performances and was excited about prospect of having an almost full squad to choose from.
“It’s been a set of tough games against tough opponents but I was really pleased with our performances, especially against Leigh,” the Batley boss said.
“We played some really good rugby league against some full-time teams and we can take a great deal of credit going into the game on Sunday.
“I want to carry over the same attitude in defence and be a little more clinical in attack.
“I am very confident that when we have all our players back, and singing off the same hymn sheet we can kick on and end the season on a high.
“We’ve had it tough with injuries this year but that’s not an excuse and we just get on with it,” he added.
Kear said his side were aware of how crucial the ‘Haven clash could be but was positive ahead of the trip to Cumbria.
“It’s test in itself getting up there, that’s just the logistical side of it, but they have the same problem when they come down to West Yorkshire.
“They’ve got some very good players like Jessie Joe-Parker, the French winger Jordan Sigismeau, and the half-back they’ve got from the Catalans, Dave Allen has impressed me this season and then they’ve got Grant Gore from Widnes so we know they’re a good side.
“But we’re looking forward to the game because we’ve had it tough recently and we’re pretty confident we can get the win.”
Kear also confirmed that hooker Anthony Nicholson could return for Batley for their game against Bradford Bulls in two weeks’ time after being out with a shoulder injury.