FORMER LEEDS Rhinos hooker Matt Diskin’s big test as the new coach of Batley Bulldogs is to prove this year was not a one-off.
Diskin, who was man-of-the-match for Rhinos in their historic 2004 Grand Final win over Bradford Bulls, has succeeded John Kear at the helm of the Kingstone Press Championship’s surprise package.
Kear returned to his previous club, Wakefield Trinity, as director of rugby after a season which saw Batley finish third in the table, earning a place in the Qualifiers against the likes of Leeds, Huddersfield Giants, Salford Red Devils and Huddersfield Giants.
Diskin, who was an assistant-coach at Bradford after a spell as player there, described what Batley achieved last year as “fantastic”.
“John Kear did so well and the players did a good job,” Diskin said.
“The first challenge was making sure we could retain the squad we’d got.
“After how well they did last year, there was a lot of interest from other clubs and we had to work hard to keep hold of our players.
“We’ve done that and now the challenge is to try and make sure last year wasn’t a one-off.
“People will be thinking that, but we have got to try and change that thinking, both from within and outside.
“It was not a one-off, it was something they are capable of repeating. It won’t be easy, but we are capable of it if everything falls into place and everyone buys into the systems and what we are trying to do here.”
The Batley job is Diskin’s first as a head coach and he insisted: “It is a massive challenge, but one I am really confident about.
“I am confident in my own ability as a coach, without being arrogant and I am looking forward to the challenge.
“It is a really well-run club and I have been allowed to put my own stamp on it. I could not have asked for better support.”
Bulldogs are into their second week of pre-season and Diskin added: “It has been really good, the boys have been really responsive.
“There’s been no real warm-up, we’ve pretty much hit the ground running. They have come back from the off-season in good shape and that has allowed us to move forward a bit quicker than anticipated.”
Batley have announced the signing of Castleford Tigers back Jy Hitchcox on a season-long loan and Dane Manning is set to rejoin them from Halifax.
Diskin said there could “potentially” be other recruits, but he stressed: “The squad depth we’ve got is really good.
“We have got some great competition for places and I’ve got plenty of headaches regarding selection, which is what you ask for as a coach.
“I am looking at filling up the back end of the squad with good-quality juniors. If Super League clubs rans ‘A’ teams, they would still be there, but I have managed to pick up some good-quality kids.”