After Batley Bulldogs stunned Leigh Centurions by defeating them on the opening day of the Championship season, I wrote a piece talking up their top four credentials this year.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of those who took the time to respond rubbished the idea of the Bulldogs making the Qualifiers. After all, it was just a fluke result at the time.
Nine games into the season and Batley remain the pacesetters of the division, along with the aforementioned Centurions. Following victories over Sheffield, Halifax and Dewsbury, along with a draw against Bradford Bulls, John Kear’s men well and truly look like a team capable of making the top four by the end of July.
It really has been a meteoric rise after flirting with relegation at times throughout the 2015 season, replacing that for a three-point cushion in the race to make the end of season Qualifiers.
But it is only now that people are starting to realise that it really isn’t a fluke. The Bulldogs have been consistent, determined and gutsy on their way to the top of the Championship, and they show absolutely no signs of slowing down.
The additions of Dom Brambani, Patch Walker and James Davey were heralded as huge signings, with their departures from Sheffield surely playing a part in their current struggles.
Add to that Chris Ulugia and Alex Brown, plus the fantastic form of Keegan Hirst, Alex Rowe and James Brown, and Batley really are where they are on merit.
Can they keep it up? Why not. They haven’t had an injury crisis yet, which could well damage their chances in the upcoming months, but the Bulldogs have already grafted for results without hooker Davey.
There are challenges ahead, of course; Leigh and Bradford will always be strong competitors, London have also enjoyed a resurgence while Featherstone could move within a point of the Bulldogs with their game in hand.
Add Halifax to the fold following their victory over Bradford, plus the threat of their improving neighbours Dewsbury, and there is still a long way to go.
But if they maintain their form and have a bit of luck too, Batley could well be in the same bracket as Leeds Rhinos and Huddersfield Giants the way things are going so far!