Batley Bulldogs are no strangers to the challenges of the Championship but they are not afraid of them, either.
Over the years, the Bulldogs have established themselves as Championship mainstays. The perennial challenge is, as always, to become more, and annually they have tried but rarely have succeeded in moving up a division.
There are reasons, obvious one: Batley don’t have the financial clout some others have but that won’t stop them trying to compete.
Craig Lingard spent the summer hoping good things would come to those who wait and ultimately that proved true.
“We had to play a bit of a patient game,” said Lingard. “We identified a few targets. And when the season finished I spoke to the chairman, chief exec and coaching staff and we identified what we thought we were lacking.
“We wanted competition and strike on the edges. We were pleased with middle unit but weak on the edges in terms of quality and depth.
“We knew that we needed some reinforcement and that we also wanted to bring an experienced half. We identified a few targets but for one reason or another none of those options came up trumps. We certainly weren’t outbid, but we have put a fair squad together now, and looking at our edges we should have real competition for places.”
Among those coming in are Jodie Broughton, a prolific try-scorer at Super League level, halfback Tom Gilmore, another with Super League experience, and rising youngster Kieran Buchanan from Hull FC.
“With Ottawa dropping out, Tom Gilmore became available,” Lingard went on, “and everything seemed to fit really well. I explained what I was looking for and it fell perfectly; we’ve got a fair squad together now.
“In the backs, if you look at the wing just as an example, there are five really strong players competing for those spots. We have got the competition we want. Credit goes to Kevin Nicholas, he paid everyone one-hundred percent throughout the lockdown, and not a lot have done that.
“He has honoured contracts, and at the same time managed to assemble this squad.
“We have been helped out massively by draws throughout the year which have brought in about £30,000 from supporters. That has been a huge help.”
Lingard, the club’s all-time leading try-scorer, is now focusing on the challenges ahead of his squad.
“We are optimistic but also realistic. Our goals have to be ticked off. Avoiding relegation is the first; everyone is so close this year that three or four wins can push you up the league. If you can pick off some of the top teams you can even have a crack at the top five.
“We don’t want to run before we walk; our goal is always to do better than last year. We were getting there last year and we want to continue that progress. During pre-season the coaching staff have been really aggressive with ball in hand but we haven’t been able to do any contact work yet. We are looking forward to that.”
Batley Bulldogs 2021 squad: James Brown, Dane Manning, Jodie Broughton, Alister Leak, Ben Kaye, Jack Blagbrough, George Senior, Toby Everett, Michael Ward, Dale Morton, Anthony Bowman, Aiden Ineson, Josh Tonks, Tom Lillycrop, Jonny Campbell, Kieran Buchanan, Wayne Reittie, Elliot Hall, Lewis Galbraith, Joe Sanderson, Luke Hooley, Ben White, Tom Gilmore, Adam Gledhill.
Ins: Kieran Buchanan (Hull FC), Elliot Hall (Workington Town), Jodie Broughton (Halifax), Tom Gilmore (Halifax), Ben Kaye (Free agent), Joe Sanderson (Hunslet) Josh Tonks (Hunslet)
Outs: Tyler Dickinson (Sheffield Eagles), Shaun Lunt (Barrow Raiders), Shaun Pick (Oldham), Dave Scott (Coventry Bears), Jo Taira (Rochdale Hornets), Keenan Tomlinson (Dewsbury Rams)
Head coach: Craig Lingard