BATLEY BULLDOGS boss Matt Diskin insists his side are not being left behind in pre-season despite having only played one warm-up game ahead of the up-coming Kingstone Press Championship campaign – but that will change when Keighley Cougars arrive at Mount Pleasant on Sunday (2pm).
The Bulldogs’ one and only game of pre-season so far came against Heavy Woollen rivals Dewsbury Rams on Boxing Day, where they ran out 28-18 winners.
Since then Diskin’s side have gone on a team bonding trip to the Peak District and had an arranged friendly, against the ill-fated Bradford Bulls, cancelled.
It means a number of rival Championship clubs have two extra games under their belts, but that doesn’t concern Diskin.
He said: “I don’t feel like we’re playing catch-up. The Bradford game would have been nice to play, but it would have affected us more if it had been cancelled closer to the season opener.”
As a new coach coming into the club Diskin was mindful that his side would need all the game time they could muster in order to get accustomed to his style of rugby.
He added: “We’re probably not going to be playing to our full potential until a couple of weeks into the season.
“It’s always tricky for players adapting to new systems when a new coach comes on board, but that doesn’t mean I’m not happy with how they have progressed as a team so far.
“People have to realise that a transition like this will take time to perfect, but in the long run I’m confident the team will be stronger for it.”
Players who didn’t get a run-out against Dewsbury on Boxing Day will be given the chance to impress their new boss against the Cougars and stake their claim for a starting place in Batley’s season opener away at newly-promoted full-timers Toulouse.
Those players include James Brown and off-season signing Dane Manning, both of whom missed the Boxing Day Challenge through injury.
The Bulldogs are expecting a tough test on Sunday against a Keighley side coached by a familiar face, former skipper Craig Lingard.
Lingard was number two to John Kear last season when the Bulldogs defied the odds to finish third in the Championship and reach the Super 8s Qualifiers, before replacing Paul March as head coach at Cougar Park last autumn.
And the squad Lingard has put together at Keighley looks strong.
In their friendly against Whitehaven last weekend Lingard’s League 1 promotion hopefuls cruised to a 42-0 victory.
“Lingard has put a squad together that could very easily succeed in the Championship, let alone League 1,” said Diskin.
“But I want my squad to be tested in games, because that way they’ll improve and I’ll learn a lot more about each individual.”
Ticket prices for adults, and concessions, are £10 and every paid entry will receive either a free Bulldogs bobble hat or a free drink.
Meanwhile the Bulldogs Community Team will be present at Sunday’s friendly to give out free junior season tickets.
Pre-match, fans can collect the junior season tickets from the Cooney Suite, under the Glenn Tomlinson Stand, and post-match the Community Team can be found in the Ron Earnshaw Lounge.
To find out more contact Jon Humpleby on 07808 055022 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• In other news former Batley and Dewsbury prop Luke Menzies has signed for League 1 side Toronto Wolfpack, coached by former Leigh boss Paul Rowley.
The 28-year-old Batley native will be hoping to earn a place in Rowley’s squad that takes on Hull FC on January 22 in a pre-season friendly at the KCOM Stadium.