FORMER GREAT Britain hooker Matt Diskin will take charge of Batley Bulldogs for the first time when they play host to neighbours Dewsbury Rams on Boxing Day (noon).
Diskin – a four-time Grand Final winner with Leeds Rhinos – has joined Batley from Bradford Bulls, where he was assistant-coach and also had a spell as co-captain.
The 34-year-old has a tough act to follow after previous boss John Kear guided Bulldogs to third place in the Kingstone Press Championship last year, but is pleased with how things have gone since training began last month.
“We are way ahead of where I thought we would be at this stage, regarding structures and that kind of thing,” Diskin said.
“Now we need to put them into practice under pressure.
“Boxing Day will be a good test and we’re looking forward to it.
“Everybody has bought into what we are trying to do, we’ve added a bit of quality and it will be an exciting guideline of where we need to improve.
“I am excited by the prospect of what we could do.”
Diskin will field his strongest-available squad and said pressure is already on his men to show what they can do.
“It’s a chance for players to stake a claim for the start of the season,” he insisted.
“There’s competition for places this year and they have to perform from day one.”
Rams coach Glenn Morrison is also in upbeat mood ahead of his team’s opening pre-season game.
He said: “It’s important for the fans to try and get a win and something to celebrate over Christmas, but we realise we need to work on a few things as well.
“With the injuries we had last year it’s important we come through injury-free and hopefully we can do that.”
Morrison said Scott Hale (shoulder) and Luke Adamson (hip surgery) will not feature, but he said: “We’ll put out as strong a side as we can and hopefully we’ll take what we’ve been working on in pre-season out on to the field.
“The players have been really receptive to what we’ve been saying, the conditioner we’ve got on board – Adam Mitchell – has been great with them and we’ve been using a gym in Ossett to do some wrestle and contact work.
“It has been a pretty good, unaffected pre-season.”