The Self-Isolation Chronicles: Batley Bulldogs

1. Head coach Craig Lingard was a contestant on Countdown.

Current Batley coach and bonafide club legend Craig Lingard featured on popular TV quiz show Countdown, in 2012. He won three shows in a row, with a massive 92-36 victory in his penultimate show and only dropped 28 of the available points. Lingard, who was coaching Bramley Buffaloes at the time, then returned to the show to test his wits in 2015, coming out of Countdown retirement to feature in a ‘Law & Order’ special, as he was a prison officer at the time. He was defeated by PC Matt Croy in his final outing, while serving as Batley assistant to John Kear. Number crunching is clearly a strong point, for Lingard, not a bad trait at all when you’re a Championship coach.

2. Two players have scored in every game of a season.

And one of them twice. The feat was first achieved by prolific goal-kicker Richard Price, who scored in all 23 league games as Batley were promoted from Division Two in 1998. But what would seem a rare feat was then done again twice, in consecutive seasons, by the same player. Fellow kicker Barry Eaton scored in every game of the 2003 and 2004 National League One seasons for Batley, in a scoring run spanning 70 games, as he set the club record for consecutive scores. Eaton features extensively in Batley’s club records, with the most goals in a season with 146, in 2004, as well as scoring the most consecutive goal kicks with 38, in 2003. The latter also stood as a world record, before being broken by Liam Finn during his time at Featherstone Rovers, while Hull KR’s Jamie Ellis levelled the record of 41, two years ago.

3. They once had a peculiar relationship with North Yorkshire football club Marske United FC.

When former Batley Bulldogs chairman John McVeigh moved to Marske-by-the-Sea, a small coastal village near Middlesbrough, he was without his sporting fix through Rugby League. McVeigh, who runs a financial company, then made contact with Marske United committee member, Peter Collinson, to get involved with the club. McVeigh then brought a group of Batley Bulldogs supporters on a tour to Marske, as their fleeting visit expanded into them following the club’s FA Vase adventures for two years. In 2010, a bus full of Marske FC supporters then returned the favour, flocking to Blackpool to watch Batley’s 25-24 win over Widnes in the Northern Rail Cup final. The relationship continued, as McVeigh sponsored Marske and Collinson, who ran a car upholstery business, sponsored Batley games and even wore the Bulldogs mascot head at Marske fixtures.

4. They considered a merger with their closest rivals, Dewsbury Rams.

In 1997, when the current board took over of Batley Bulldogs, their financial woes were so heavy that the club were in serious danger of being wound up. A merger with their closest and fiercest rivals, Heavy Woollen counterparts Dewsbury Rams, was quietly considered in an era when the ‘M’ word was a curse word in Rugby League. The club ultimately chose to sustain their identity and pulled through and won promotion to the National League One and winning the TransPennine Cup a year later. Since then, the club have become mainstays in the second-tier and have maintained a fierce rivalry with the Rams.

5. One of their former players is now a professional wrestler in the WWE.

At 6’1 and weighing in at 260lbs and haling from Liversedge, Yorkshire, former Batley Bulldogs forward joined the WWE circuit in 2018. That came after a short-lived spell with Toronto Wolfpack for Menzies, who played for Batley in two stints and started his career at the club. He left Rugby League and trialled for WWE, in 2016, and was snapped up two years later. He adopted the stage name ‘Ridge Holland’ and regularly sports a flat cap as a nod to his Yorkshire roots. He regularly fights on the WWE’s NXT shows, after making his professional debut in 2018. Menzies has fought 118 times on the professional wrestling circuit, winning 39, and also held the 3CW title belt for 28 days in 2018. Menzies isn’t the only Rugby League representative in the WWE, with former Salford Red Devils and Samoa winger Daniel Vidot currently on a developmental contract and pushing his way into the sport.