LEE GREENWOOD says that his Dewsbury Rams players are looking forward to taking on local rivals Batley in the first game of pre-season on Boxing Day.
The traditional festive fixture sees both enjoy their first hit-out ahead of the new campaign, with a host of new signings set to be on show for both sides at the Tetley’s Stadium.
Although the timing is typically awkward for coaches and players in their pre-season preparations, head coach Greenwood says that his side have been eagerly anticipating the Boxing Day bout.
“The lads are actually looking forward to it, which you don’t always find because it gets in the way of your Christmas time. The lads seem to be really looking forward to it,” he said.
“We’re giving them a little bit of time off after it, which we didn’t manage to do last year because we had the Yorkshire Cup not long after it. This year we’ve managed to give them a week or so off after the game, and the lads are looking forward to playing and then having that time off.
“Hopefully we’ll give a decent account of ourselves. I’m sure Craig (Lingard, Batley coach), like me, isn’t expecting to see us anywhere near our best, but I’d like to think it can be an improvement from what we produced last Boxing Day. I wasn’t that keen on that.”
The Rams were beaten 16-10 in the fixture last season, in what was Greenwood’s first match leading the club. This time the boot is on the other foot, with Lingard the new man in the other dugout after replacing Matt Diskin as boss at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium.
“It’s not a massively changed squad but he’s brought a few influential players in like (Shaun) Lunt, and (Lucas) Walshaw and (Dale) Morton from ourselves,” said Greenwood.
“They’ve had quite a settled squad for a number of years so it’ll be interesting to see what Craig does differently to what Matt had been doing.”
The Dewsbury boss will hope to improve on last season’s record against the Bulldogs, having played their neighbours four times and lost all four, and he believes the gap between the sides should be narrower this time around.
“I did feel that Batley’s squad was better than ours going into each game,” Greenwood reflected. “We’d have had to cause a surprise to beat them if I’m being honest, with the two sets of squads that were put out in each game. I dare say they were favourites in all four and they won all four.
“I think this year will be interesting. I’m confident that in some areas we’re stronger than them and in others, that remains to be seen, whereas last year overall I felt they were better.
“Let’s see if I’ve managed to make those improvements and make us stronger in certain areas.”
Dewsbury could be without four of their squad on Boxing Day.
Centre Jason Walton has been out with an ACL injury for the past year and is aiming to be fit for the start of the season, while forward Chris Annakin won’t be risked against Batley as he continues his recovery from groin surgery.
Full-back Joe Martin has suffered minor ligament damage to his ankle and prop Jon Magrin has been out of training through a combination of illness and a toe injury, with Greenwood reluctant to risk either unless they are fully fit.