BATLEY BULLDOGS coach John Kear is relishing his side’s seemingly difficult start to the 2016 Championship campaign.
Kear’s men face Leigh Centurions at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium in their opening fixture, which is followed by a trip to face Featherstone Rovers before hosting Sheffield Eagles.
“We’ve been thrown in at the deep end that is for sure,” said Kear.
“We’ve been matched against three very strong teams who will all be pushing for a top four spot in the league.
“But if a had a choice I would choose a start like this ahead of what could be seen as an easier one.
“I understand that it is important to get off to a good start and get points on the board early, but just three weeks into the season we will know exactly where we are at.
“If we win a couple we will be brimming with confidence and it would set us up for what will hopefully be a very good season, but on the other hand if we struggle in our first few games we will know exactly where we need to improve.
“My main concern is that we compete in all three of the games and show that we have improved from last year against the better sides in the league.
“It is a 30-game season so we know we are going to go through difficult periods, it happens to every team, it’s just about managing the challenging times and making sure we learn from any mistakes we make,” added Kear.
What makes Batley’s opening fixture a more daunting prospect are Leigh’s autumn signings.
Grand Final winner Harrison Hansen and Australian star Corey Paterson have joined the club, along with England international Rangi Chase.
“Leigh have done a brilliant job of recruiting since the end of the season and it just highlights the fact they are going to be a formidable force in 2016,” said Kear.
“But with so many big-name stars coming to play at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium I’m sure our fans will be out in force cheering us on even more than usual.”
The release of this season’s fixtures also revealed that the Big Bash weekend will be returning to Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road ground where Batley and Dewsbury will meet for the second year running.
“I’m certainly looking forward to the Big Bash, it’s a great occasion,” said Kear.
“Unfortunately last season’s game between us and Dewsbury wasn’t the best spectacle from a fans perspective and we played the Rams on so many occasions last season that I was concerned it would become an overkill.
“But the fact remains that other than facing a Super League side in the Challenge Cup, or reaching the play-offs, the Big Bash will be our biggest game of the year, so me and my players will definitely be prepared for a tough contest and hopefully it will make for a very entertaining game,” added Kear.
BATLEY BULLDOGS FIXTURES 2016 CHAMPIONSHIP:
Sun, Feb 7 Leigh Centurions (H) 3pm
Sun, Feb 14 Featherstone Rovers (A) 3pm
Sun, Feb 21 Sheffield Eagles (H) 3pm
Sun, Feb 28 Halifax (A) 3pm
Sun, Mar 6 Workington Town (H) 3pm
Sun, Mar 13 Bradford Bulls (H) 3pm
Fri, Mar 25 Dewsbury Rams (A) 3pm
Mon, Mar 28 Whitehaven (H) 3pm
Sun, Apr 3 Oldham (A) 3pm
Sun, Apr 10 London Broncos (A) 3pm
Sun, Apr 24 Swinton Lions (H) 3pm
Sun, May 1 Leigh Centurions (A) 3pm
Sun, May 15 Halifax (H) 3pm
Sun, May 22 Workington Town (A) 3pm
Sun, May 29 Dewsbury Rams (Summer Bash) 12.45pm
Sun, Jun 5 Oldham (H) 3pm
Sun, Jun 12 Sheffield Eagles (A) TBC
Sun, Jun 19 Bradford Bulls (A) 3pm
Sun, Jun 26 Dewsbury Rams (H) 3pm
Sat, Jul 2 Whitehaven (A) 6.30pm
Sun, Jul 10 Featherstone Rovers (H) 3pm
Sun, Jul 17 London Broncos (H) 3pm
Sun, Jul 24 Swinton Lions (A) 3pm