There was one result that stood out more than any this weekend, with Championship minnows Batley Bulldogs stunning the superstars of Leigh at Mount Pleasant.
Inevitably, that incredible result saw plenty of people aim fire at the Centurions after their eye-catching recruitment drive and the brash comments that have come out of the club throughout the off-season.
However, the spotlight should very well be on the Bulldogs of West Yorkshire, who got their season off to the perfect possible start by overcoming Leigh and asserting their credentials for the year.
So often forgotten in a competitive Championship field crammed with big clubs, John Kear has consolidated a club that frequently attracts three-figure crowds. In 2010 the Bulldogs won the now defunct Northern Rail Cup and even made the Championship Grand Final in 2013.
The last few years have been rather forgettable, but the signs have been there for a while that the Bulldogs are ready to break the glass ceiling with just a bit more luck. Last year they suffered narrow defeats to Halifax, Sheffield and Bradford, who all went on to make the top four. Kear has addressed those defeats on numerous occasions over the last few months, citing ‘composure and quality’ as their downfall.
However ahead of the new season Kear has overseen a superb recruitment drive, particularly in the pivot positions. Dom Brambani, Patch Walker and James Davey, all of whom played integral roles in Sheffield’s recent success, have joined the club to inject creativity and experience, while Alex Brown, Chris Ulugia and Danny Cowling have all added quality out wide, with Ulugia scoring twice against Leigh.
It has given them the scope to become a major player in the chase for a top four spot, and yesterday’s win might make people take notice of that fact. They do perhaps lack depth, which in a long season could be an issue later down the line, but with momentum, confidence and a man like Kear at the helm, the possibility of them shocking the competition isn’t unfathomable.
Yes, Leigh are currently dealing with the embarrasment of that defeat, but come the end of the year Batley might well have proved that it wasn’t a fluke.