BATLEY BULLDOGS have signed up young Dewsbury Celtic prospect George Senior on a development programme, which coach Matt Diskin hopes will help bridge the gap to the first team.
Half-back Danny Sowerby was involved in a similar programme last year and went on to make four appearances in the Championship.
Celtic back-rower Senior, who recently made his debut for England Under 19s, is now the next player to get the opportunity to train with the first team with the aim of earning a contract.
The Bulldogs have three other amateur players on trial, with Dewsbury Moor’s Archie Bruce joined by Rochdale Mayfield duo Paul Brearley and Callum Ogden.
Diskin says that the club wants to build a gateway for young players to reach the first team, something that he feels is currently being neglected in rugby league.
“The problem we’ve got is, as everybody knows at this level, and all levels to be honest, there’s a lack of reserves to progress from academy onwards,” he said.
“We’re real supporters of the reserve grade, and I know for a fact that the board would put a reserve grade into any compulsory competition that’s going. The problem we’ve got is there are only three or four teams, so what’s the point of Batley spending £50,000 a year on a reserve grade if there’s only four games a year?
“So the problem is we haven’t got that gateway from academy, where they need to mature, to senior level.
“We trialled a 12-month development programme with Danny Sowerby last year and we thought that worked really well, and Danny’s continuing that with us as well while maintaining his commitments with Lock Lane, and George Senior will be very similar.
“He’ll be training with us, he’ll be getting all the benefits of training in a professional environment while still maintaining his commitments with Dewsbury Celtic, and looking at trying to earn a contract in the future with us.”
Batley have confirmed a new deal for Tom Hemingway, who made only eight appearances for the club in 2018 after suffering a serious injury against Leigh Centurions in July.
The hooker or half-back did enough to prove his worth to the squad though, and has signed a new one-year deal.
Diskin said: “He adds some utility and gives us some really experienced, quality competition for the number nine place, so we’re really happy with that signing.”
This has been the third week back in pre-season training for the Bulldogs, and the coach says that things have been “really positive” so far.
“They’ve all come back in good shape, the new additions have fitted in very well and they’re all really professional in how they’ve been going about their stuff,” he said.
“They’ve given us a new intensity to the level of training which has helped the old fellas that are there as well. I’m generally happy but we’re only two weeks in and there’s plenty of progress to be made.”
Batley had four players involved in international tournaments in recent weeks, with Scotland’s Dave Scott, Ireland’s Michael Ward and France’s Louis Jouffret all involved in the European Championship.
Keenen Tomlinson was also part of the Jamaica squad that sealed a place at the 2021 World Cup last weekend by winning the Americas Championship.
Diskin says that Tomlinson, Scott and Jouffret will return to training on December 3, while prop forward Ward is already back with the group.
He said: “Michael Ward is back with us now, he consulted with us and decided he only really wanted the week off.
“Being more of a bigger-boned player, he can’t afford to have as much time off as the rest!”
The coach also says that he is now happy with the squad at his disposal, despite the loss of signing Iliess Macani who was allowed to return home to London for personal reasons.
“We were comfortable letting Iliess go, firstly because it was the right thing to do and he needs to spend time down there, but secondly having signed Niall Walker we’re more than confident in the depth that we’ve got in that position now, so we’re in no rush to sign anybody to cover that position.”