BATLEY BULLDOGS have appointed club legend Craig Lingard as their new head coach following the departure of Matt Diskin.
The club have moved swiftly to bring in Lingard, who is the Bulldogs’ all-time record scorer with 142 tries in 206 appearances over a 10-year spell.
He was assistant coach during John Kear’s time as boss, when Batley reached the Championship Grand Final in 2013 and the Super 8s in 2016 after a third-placed league finish.
Lingard took on his first head-coach role in 2017 with League One side Keighley Cougars, but was dismissed midway through the 2019 season. The 42-year-old is now back at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium, where he has a terrace named after him.
Meanwhile, former boss Karl Harrison has also returned to the coaching staff as a consultant advisor.
Harrison had a three-year spell in charge of the Bulldogs between 2009 and 2011, which included their Northern Rail Cup triumph in 2010, and has also coached Salford, Halifax and the England national team.
The appointments come following the departure of previous coach Matt Diskin, whose original three-year deal was not renewed at the end of the season.
After replacing Kear ahead of the 2017 season, the former Leeds and Bradford hooker led Batley to sixth- and seventh-place finishes in his first two campaigns in charge.
But last week’s final-day defeat at Barrow saw them finish in 10th spot in what has been a challenging 2019 for the club both on and off the field.
A statement on the Bulldogs website said: “Following an initial three-year period, Batley Bulldogs feel it is the right time for a change of direction at the club and Matt Diskin will leave his role as head coach with immediate effect.
“In his first season at the club The Bulldogs reached the Championship Shield semi-final. The 2017 campaign finished with a flourish as the side registered 6 wins from the final 7 games, but 2019 has been a difficult year for the club both on and off the field.
“Matt’s effort and commitment to the club cannot be questioned and he leaves a legacy of improvements, including the new player’s gym, behind which he was a driving force after taking charge of the team.”
Diskin was also praised for his handling of the recent death of young player Archie Bruce, hours after making his debut for the club in Toulouse.
“Through the recent most difficult times off the field, Matt has been a credit to the club and himself in the way he has handled the situation. He will leave with our sincere thanks and appreciation for all he has done at Batley Bulldogs.”
Assistant coach Lee St Hilaire will also leave the club, although the former Wakefield and Bradford right-hand man had already planned to depart after three years with the club to spend more time with his family.
The club added: “As with Matt, our thanks and best wishes go to Lee for his outstanding work and professionalism over the past 3 years.”
Batley are also set for a number of departures from the playing roster, including half-back Louis Jouffret who has signed for Championship rivals Featherstone Rovers.
The Frenchman arrived in 2018 and has been one of their key men over the past year, finishing the 2019 campaign as the club’s top scorer with 14 tries in 27 appearances.
The Bulldogs are currently down to only one player in the halves with captain Dom Brambani also leaving the club.
Highly-rated second-rower Paul Brearley is also moving on, after having an impressive breakthrough season following his capture from amateur side Rochdale Mayfield.
Alex Bretherton and Tom Lillycrop have already announced their retirements while Adam Gledhill is also considering retirement to focus on work commitments.
Only four players are currently tied down for 2020: full-back Dave Scott and back-rowers Dane Manning, Jack Downs and James Brown.
Manning was named the Players’ Player of the Year and Supporters’ Club Man of Steel at Wednesday’s awards night, while Scott was chosen as Player of the Year by both the Supporters’ Club and Batley Bulldogs Forum Members. Hooker Alistair Leak was handed the Coaches’ Player of the Year gong.