After a near miraculous era under the stewardship of John Kear, the responsibility of first-team matters at Batley Bulldogs goes to rookie coach Matt Diskin.
The Bulldogs defied the odds to finish third in the Championship last year, but Diskin’s first objective is to now consolidate a top-four position amid fierce competition from clubs in full-time training and aided by much heftier budgets.
It’s an unenviable task for the most experienced of coaches, yet alone for a coach in his first job. Add to that the challenge of replacing a coach of Kear’s experience and influence and it would be easy to shy away from the challenge ahead.
However, in Diskin, Batley have appointed an enthusiastic and confident replacement. Not only is he confident that he can replicate the success Batley had under Kear, but he also thinks he can help them evolve.
“It’s a massive challenge, but one I’m looking forward to,” Diskin said.
“I don’t find it daunting. There’s a line been drawn under John’s time here. He’s left me a great legacy to step into, and now it’s my turn to take the opportunity to put my mark on the great foundations he has put in place.
“There was a perception outside Batley that there was a level of fortune in what they achieved last year, and externally you can agree with that. Bradford had an off-year, Halifax had an off-year. My challenge is when Batley are mentioned that they are associated with the top four along with all the other teams year in, year out.
“It’s my first head coach role. I’m really confident in myself as a coach, but I know I’ve a lot to learn. My ethos and philosophy will have its core values, but the rest of it will develop as I do that as a coach. I’m committed to Batley for three years and I want to leave a lasting legacy for whoever comes in after me, just as John has for me.”
Batley gained admirers for their efficiency last year, although it brought criticism from some opposing fans who perceived them as playing a dull brand of rugby.
However, with a new coach comes new methods, and Diskin wants to bring an expansive brand of rugby with him to Mount Pleasant next year.
“I think the game itself has become pretty one-dimensional,” he said.
“It’s boring to watch at times. It’s all about completion rate, but I want my team to play and getting back to playing what’s in front of them. Ultimately, I want to play a more expansive game, but to do that we’ve got to be defensively well drilled, so that’s a massive focus for us. We know that if we’re going to be more expansive we might make more mistakes, so we therefore have to defend.
“A lot of attack now is pre-empted, training ground moves. You can have the best move in the world set up, but if you’ve got space in front of you, why wouldn’t you take it?
“Batley and John Kear had a lot of success with the style that he played, but I love the game when it’s played attractively. I want us to find a combination of doing that and getting results as well. We’re confident that we will compete, hopefully around the top four again, while playing some good rugby at the same time.”