BATLEY BULLDOGS boss Craig Lingard hopes that his squad can experience some of the Boxing Day joy that he remembers as a player when he leads the club out for the first time against Dewsbury.
Lingard spent his entire playing career at Mount Pleasant, becoming the club’s all-time record try-scorer, and took charge as head coach in September.
He will finally get to see his players in action next week as the Bulldogs make the short hop to the Tetley’s Stadium for the festive derby fixture, and his playing experience makes him fully aware of the rivalry and the importance of the Boxing Day game in particular.
“I used to enjoy them as a player. It was a really great crowd to play in front of, with between two and three thousand there every season,” said Lingard.
“It’s always great to play in, there’s a great atmosphere, and if you win the game as a player you celebrate well as a team. I remember some really good Boxing Days over my time as a player so hopefully our players can experience that this year as well.”
He added: “I played in maybe two or three dozen Batley-Dewsbury games so I know full well what it means to the spectators.
“Whether or not it’s a friendly on paper, it’s always good to get one over your rivals. We know that it’s not going to impact on league positions at the end of the season but it’s always nice to start your pre-season with a victory over your rivals, so we’ll certainly be going out to win the game, as Lee (Greenwood) will be at Dewsbury. Make no mistake, we’ll definitely be out to win the game.”
The fixture tends to come at an inconvenient time for coaches in their pre-season preparations although Lingard says that, while his team will no doubt be scratchy in their first hit-out, there will be plenty he can learn.
“There are still a lot of things that you haven’t worked on and a lot of areas that you need tighten up on, so you go into it a little bit blind,” he said. “But likewise you can look at some of the players in a game apply what you’ve been working on in training.
“It’s a strange one for a coach as you want to play it and you don’t want to play it. You’d like a little bit more preparation but what it does do is it gives you an idea of where you really are in your preparation for the first game at the start of February.
“It will give us a very good idea of where the players’ understanding is with what we’ve been working on ball-in-hand and the positions in the field that we need to be in to get the shapes that we’re looking at, and how they can adapt that from training to a game situation.”
Batley will be without centre Lewis Galbraith for the match as he continues his recovery from an ankle injury, and winger Niall Walker has been away from training for personal reasons so won’t feature.
Loose-forward James Brown may not be risked on Boxing Day with the forward nursing a minor foot injury, while the trialists at the club are unlikely to be considered.