After the gut-wrenching disappointment of last weekend, everyone in the Hornets camp must gird-up their loins for this Sunday’s trip to Mount (un)Pleasant.
As Batley continue to provide the template for part-time success in the Championship, they come into Sunday’s game on the back of an impressive 36-16 victory at Barrow Raiders which consolidates their third place spot in the Championship Shield.
Most of the damage was done by winger Johnny Campbell who weighed in with a hat-trick - playing outside Lewis Galbraith! Second row Brad Day also grabbed a brace as the Bulldogs delivered their 10th win of the season - to leave them a mere 12 points behind Leigh in second.
Modesty, however, appears to be a commodity in short supply at the Mount this week. Having put together two decent wins, Bulldogs assistant coach Danny Maun suddenly sees his side as world-beaters. Speaking in the heavyweight broadsheet the Batlety and Birstall News, he said: “I can’t see us losing again and I think the way we are playing, we are capable of going to Leigh and winning.”
His boss Matt Diskin was a little more circumspect in his tone, recognising that finishing in third place in the shield (or 7th in the Championship) is a strategic as well as a footballing target. “Potentially there’s a difference of £25,000 per place…” he said, “… that is three or four players to a club like Batley so it is massive for us.”
Indeed, the most interesting thing about Batley this week - beyond press reports that ‘League Weakly’ publisher Danny Lockwood has been sowing racial division in the town ( Link to the full story here) - is the League Express article that suggests that the Bulldogs are chasing Danny Yates for next season (which could see the Gallant Youths’ regular half-back Dominic Brambani edged out as part of Diskin’s mooted squad overhaul - especially given the news that French out-half Louis Jouffret has signed for 2019).
Hornets meanwhile continue to battle damoclean mathematics. Sitting seven points behind Barrow with eight points to play for, defeat at Mount Pleasant (or a Barrow win at Dewsbury regardless of the outcome of the Batley game) will bring our Championship stay to an end.
We can’t deny, it’s been a difficult week at TLCRF80mins Towers.
Much like Sunday’s game at Batley, the 2018 season has been an uphill task and, while the team have struggled gamely, the odds have proven too great to overcome. But these are difficult times for the game as a whole as it continues to wrestle with an existential crisis, driven by SLE’s desire to limit whole-game funding and the RFL’s lack of ability to cohese a whole-game solution. That clubs feel compelled to meet amongst themsleves to seek ideas and force conversations with the game's two power-brokers has scary echoes of 1895.
Meantime, SLE Ltd need to realise that without the game outside Super League, they don’t have an actual ‘sport’ to pimp to Sky - as ‘Rugby League’ gets boiled-down to just 12 teams endlessly circle-jerking each other in return for diminishing funds/spectator interest. And the RFL need to grow a pair. It’s the governing body of the sport in the UK, but is so wilfully submissive to the demands of Super League, that you wonder if Ralph Rimmer goes to meetings in a gimp suit.
The whole game needs a whole-game strategy - from top to bottom - delivering long-term clarity, consistency and continuity for everyone involved.
Four games to go, folks. As Prince Buster once said: “Enjoy yourselves - it’s later than you think”.