CRAIG LINGARD hopes to have his Batley Bulldogs squad finalised in the next couple of weeks, after the club’s first new signing of the off-season was announced this week.
Two weeks into the job following his appointment as head coach, Lingard currently has 15 players tied down to deals for 2020, including two new signings.
One of those has now been confirmed as half-back Ben White who joins on a one-year deal from Barrow Raiders.
White, 24, started at Leeds Rhinos and appeared in Super League before impressing in three seasons at Swinton Lions.
Following a spell in Australia with Berkeley Eagles he joined Halifax, but he struggled to make an impression last season and finished the year in Cumbria.
White is only the second half-back on the club’s roster for next season alongside Danny Yates, whose own deal has been confirmed this week, after the departures of Louis Jouffret and Dom Brambani.
Lingard says that his focus now, with the help of former Bulldogs head coach Karl Harrison who has returned to club to assist with recruitment, is on finding further additions to the squad.
“We’re working behind the scenes, and with Karl Harrison as well, looking to get some players identified coming in,” said Lingard.
“It’s 13 players from last year that will return and will be announced in the coming weeks, and there’s a few we’ve already recruited externally.
“But we’re working hard behind the scenes to get some more strength in depth in the squad, and hopefully within a week or two the squad will be finalised.”
Four more of last year’s squad have had their new deals confirmed by the club in the past week, with Lewis Galbraith, Joe Taira, Wayne Reittie and Danny Yates all staying put for another year.
Galbraith, 24, who can play at centre or on the wing, will enter his third season for Batley, having made 46 appearances and scored 11 tries since first signing from Rochdale.
Powerful prop Taira, 30, was also originally brought to the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium from the Hornets, and played 19 matches in his first season for the club in 2019, scoring three tries.
The 2020 season will be an eighth at the Bulldogs for experienced winger Wayne Reittie. The 31-year-old had his first spell at the club in 2011 and then re-joined from Halifax in 2014, making 152 appearances in total and scoring 89 tries.
And 25-year-old Yates has committed to a second season at the club after injuries limited the half-back to 17 appearances in 2019 following his move from Rochdale.
The departure of Paul Brearley has been confirmed this week with the giant back-rower, who impressed in his first season after signing from Rochdale Mayfield, snapped up by Championship rivals Halifax.
Meanwhile, the club plan to begin pre-season training early in November, and Lingard says that he is looking forward to getting on the training field when their recruitment is done.
“When you’re doing this stuff off the field it’s probably the busiest time of the year, your recruitment phase, getting your training venues sorted and your plans in place, and discussing everything with your backroom staff.
“Once the training starts, that’s the exciting period when you can see what you’ve got, and see which players are putting their hands up to make a bid for the starting shirts in the first league game of the season.
“We’re probably going to have five or six weeks of really intense training before the Boxing Day game, then give the guys a little bit of time off over that New Year period before they come back full tilt in January.”