Thursday, 1 February 2018

Sunday's Coming: Batley

“Adversity has the same effect on a man that severe training has on the pugilist: it reduces him to his fighting weight.”

US writer Henry Wheeler Shaw was an insightful bloke.  And, if what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, Hornets should come out of pre-season in reasonably solid shape.

A series of challenges have tested the club’s fortitude over the the winter, but in typical battling fashion, we go to the 2018 start-line on Sunday ready for another Championship season.

Not withstanding the budgetary adjustment, a Spotland pitch that continues to rot in front of your very eyes, and the loss of club statesman Ray Myers, Alan Kilshaw has pulled the squad tight and got us ready to go. Indeed, Sunday’s kick off should come as both a relief and a release.

We start this year’s journey - like last year - in Heavy Woollen fashion: this time facing Matt Diskin’s Batley Bulldogs, who’ve cornered the market in perfunctory, hard-to-beat obstinance. Having been blindly robbed at the Mount last year, Hornets were overcome in the return fixture by a side that wrung every last drop of its Championship nous out of a performance that was as brutally ugly as it was ruthlessly effective (Batley winning 14-24)

We wrote: “Batley arrived at Spotland with a win-at-all-costs gameplan that tested tyro referee Liam Moore capabilities to the limit - the Bulldogs shipping 12 of the game's 21 penalties as they brawled, sprawled and - eventually - spoiled every last ounce of quality from the game. With a huge pack, Batley's half-backs had a single purpose - to feed the forwards into traffic and grind out a win of any shade.”

And we anticipate more of the same this time round, the off-season having been a period of consolidation and augmentation. As far as we can see, the ‘Dogs have only lost Cain Southernwood (to Hunslet), Diskin having added Jonny Campbell and Keenan Tomlinson (Bradford Bulls), Izaac Farrell (Huddersfield Giants – loan), Tom Hemingway (Dewsbury Rams), Tom Holland (Whitehaven), Michael Ward (Oldham) and a certain Lewis Galbraith to his squad.

Batley come to Spotland having won three from three pre-season games. Having seen off Wakefield’s academy 24-12 and Keighley Cougars 0-28, the Dogs were unconvincing at Doncaster at weekend, struggling to shrug-off the League 1 outfit at the Keepmoat.

Having led 10- 20 at the break and 16-36 deep into the second half, Batley’s defence knocked-off early to finish clinging-on for a narrow 34-36 win - the home side aided and abetted by Farrell’s yellow-card for a professional foul.

Batley Lined up: David Scott, Wayne Reittie, Jason Crookes, Lewis Galbraith, Shaun Ainscough, Patrick Walker, Dominic Brambani, Adam Gledhill, Tom Hemingway, Tommy Holland, Dane Manning, James Harrison and James Brown.  Interchanges – Izaac Farrell, Keenan Tomlinson, Michael Ward, Alistair Leak, Alex Rowe, James Davey, Danny Cowling and Joe Chandler.

The Batley threat - as always - comes courtesy of their half back pairing of Patch Walker and Dominic Brambani who act as flywheel and governor at the heart of the Bulldogs machine. Their edges of Shaun Ainscough and Pound-Shop Vin Diesel™ Wayne Reittie are both no-nonsense, route-one finishers.

This year Ainscough comes paired with Trigger. If ever there was a case of watching your ex. snog your mate’s idiot brother, this is it. On the plus side, we all know where his frailties lie, so there’s an opportunity to exploit that familiarity.

Diskin starts the season minus prop Tom Lillycrop who dislocated a shoulder in the 28-0 pre-season win at Keighley Cougars and faces a lengthy absence.

On the home front, we’re excited to see the new iteration of Killer’s Hornets in action. After a close-season that has seen what feels like a pretty heavy turnover of personnel, we can’t wait to see the impact that the new guys will have. For those of you who’ve lost track, the new members of the Hornets squad are:

Luke Adamson (Oldham)
Toby Adamson (Dewsbury Rams)
Dave Allen (Whitehaven)
Earl Hurst (North Wales Crusaders)
Richard Lepori (Oldham)
Harry Reardon (Warrington Wolves)
Blake Turner (North Wales Crusaders)
Alex Gaskell (University of Gloucestershire All Golds)
Billy Brickhill (University of Gloucestershire All Golds)
Aiden Hema (Halifax)
Dec Gregory (Hemel Stags)
Callum Mulkeen (North Wales Crusaders)
Deon Cross (Blackbrook)

The squad has a good mix of experience and raw talent - which makes not an unknown quantity for us too. But, as we always do, lets don our colours one more time and get behind our team. Whatever waits for us between now and September, ultimately, unity will pull us through. We ask 100% of those who wear the jersey on our behalf - and it’s beholden on us to give the same level of commitment if we are to haul this club of ours all the way to a successful outcome.

Regardless of which side of the wall we spend our Sunday afternoons, we are all Hornets. We stand together, we pull together and we fight together. And while we surely will lose together too, the rewards for winning together will make it all the more satisfying.

Suck it in folks. Here we go…