CHAMPIONSHIP RIVALS Dewsbury Rams and Batley Bulldogs are going into their traditional Boxing Day clash in good shape, according to coaches Glenn Morrison and John Kear.
Morrison’s Rams, who have home advantage for the noon kick-off, will be without nine players recovering from surgery, but the coach insisted he is pleased with the way his men have performed in the first half of pre-season.
“They stuck to their off-season programme and came back in good shape,” said Morrison, who plans to give a run out to several youngsters who have trained well after impressing for the reserves last year. “We’ve got our hands on the ball a bit more than we usually do, which we needed to because we’ve got new half-backs. I’ve been really happy and I’m looking forward to seeing how they go in a game.”
Kear admitted getting through injury-free is his priority. He said: “It will be a successful day if we don’t get any injuries. A highly successful day will be no injuries, a good performance and the scoreline in our favour.”
Kear feels Bulldogs have strengthened their squad, but he warned: “It is great everyone is expectant, enthusiastic, positive and buoyant, but we have to realise other teams have stronger squads as well.
“Leigh probably had the strongest squad last season and look at the signings they have made. Everybody will be aiming to do better, but we are comfortable with what we’ve got, given the money we have spent and I am certain it will be a competitive and enjoyable season.”
Batley will travel to Dewsbury without centre Chris Ulugia, who has returned to Australia for Christmas. Bulldogs’ hopes of signing him from Bradford Bulls on a permanent deal were scuppered by visa problems, so he has joined them on a season-long loan.
Also missing will be knee injury victims Sean Hesketh and Joe Chandler, plus Luke Blake due to personal reasons.
Meanwhile, Kear will complete a rare feat on Boxing Day. He said: “In 2015 I will have coached a game in every month of the year. We had friendlies in January, then the season began in February and I had Wales at the end of the year.”