IF BATLEY BULLDOGS drop out of the Kingstone Press Championship this year, coach John Kear won’t accept they have been “relegated”.
Bulldogs were yesterday docked three points after an RFL operational rules tribunal found them guilty of fielding an ineligible player – Huddersfield Giants’ Jacob Fairbank – in last month’s win at Sheffield Eagles.
Batley were found guilty of breaching operational rule B3.17 which states that in order to play after the registration deadline, dual-registration players who have a salary cap value of £20,000 or more must have already played in at least three league fixtures for the Championship club in the current campaign.
The punishment dropped Batley a place to 10th in the table and they now occupy the final relegation spot, three points adrift of Whitehaven with only three games to play, though they do have a better points difference.
Kear guided Bulldogs to the Championship Grand Final last year, but he admitted with five teams out of 14 going down, due to next year’s league shake-up, it was always going to be a tough campaign. He said: “As far as I am concerned, if we finish fifth from bottom we won’t be relegated, we’ll be re-organised. In normal years the bottom two are relegated and we’re nowhere near that. Somebody is going to end up going down through re-organisation and that is a tough outcome.”
Bulldogs chairman Kevin Nicholas was “disappointed” with the tribunal verdict and said: “We’ll consider an appeal as soon as we’ve got the written reasons. We’ve been told that will be within seven days. We’re just going to concentrate on the game at home to Dewsbury Rams [tomorrow] and trying to win the last three games to give ourselves a shot at avoiding relegation. “
Nicholas added: “I’ve had constant support from [Rams chairman] Mark Sawyer on this issue and I’m grateful for that. That shows off the field the clubs are on friendly terms while obviously on it the rivalry is as intense as ever.”
Doncaster were also deducted three points, for a similar offence, so Rams are now just three points adrift of the fourth-placed South Yorkshire outfit going into tomorrow’s derby (3pm).
“It is a big game for us,” Rams coach Glenn Morrison said. “The further up the table you finish, the more money you get. In games like this form goes out of the window. It is going to be really tough and John Kear enjoys getting teams up for big games like this.”