BATLEY BULLDOGS coach Craig Lingard believes returning prop Keegan Hirst can make a big impact this year.
The local favourite, who played in Super League for Wakefield, has agreed a deal to re-join his hometown club for a third spell.
Hirst will turn 35 the day after Batley go into their first home league game, against Swinton on Sunday, February 12, and hasn’t played a competitive match since the early end to the Covid-hit 2020 campaign, when he was with Halifax.
But Lingard, who became assistant coach at Batley ahead of the second of Hirst’s first two seasons there in 2013, and was still in that post when, after a 20-game stint at Featherstone, the forward returned between late 2014 and 2016, has already seen enough to know the Bradford Academy product, who has also played for Hunslet and Dewsbury, is capable of making a significant contribution.
“We wanted to sign him towards the end of last season, but we got tied up in the red tape of the registration rules,” said Lingard, who guided his side to the Championship Grand Final against Leigh, who won 44-12.
“Keegan was training with us at that time, and looked in great nick, and he’s built on that during pre-season, and had a good run-out in the Boxing Day game against Dewsbury (hosts Batley were 32-22 winners).
“He works as a personal trainer and has always been very aware of what he needs to do to stay in good shape. His rugby fitness is now coming back.
“Keegan wanted to play in Super League, and we were pleased to see him achieve that, but Batley is his hometown club and has been a big part of his life and career.
“He already knew most of the people here, and we know him, and it’s great to have him back.”
Batley head to York for a second pre-season game on Sunday (3pm).
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