Batley Bulldogs boss Craig Lingard confirms loss of “strike players” as speculation builds around Leeds Rhinos target

Batley Bulldogs’ remarkable season has come to an end and it’s now that time when the Bulldogs are tasked with defying the odds and staying in the mix at the top of the division despite having what coach Craig Lingard said was the “second lowest” budget in the second tier.

Lingard made that comment after his side lost the Grand Final to Leigh last night on Premier Sports. The Bulldogs lost 44-12 but it was a valiant effort from his side especially in the first half an hour when it looked like the game was well and truly on.

Nonetheless, it was a remarkable achievement just getting to the Grand Final considering the quality and the money of some of the other sides in the league.

Batley most seasons are forced into rebuilds due to their lack of financial power and after making the semi-finals last year were written off in 2022 but rebuilt to go one step further.

When asked if they could build again and earn promotion next year, Lingard told Premier Sports: “We never say never, we’re realistic in what we’ve got and what we haven’t got. Our budget is probably second lowest in the Championship and it’s not going to change next year. Keighley have come up and they’re recruiting well for next year so we’re starting behind the eight ball for next year compared to what other teams are spending and recruiting.

“I’ve still not got a budget for next year.”

No budget for next year for Lingard then, this has made it hard for him and his team to prepare for 2023.

On the preparations he said: “It’s been trying to start for the last three months or so. We’ll have a sit down in the next week and try to work out where we are financially and we’ll recruit accordingly.”

Making matters worse is the fact that Lingard confirmed that a number of players would be leaving the club including some of their “strike players” and “pivots”: “We’re going to lose a few players, a few of our strike players and pivots who have gone to other clubs.

“They’re going to need to be replaced and we can’t replace them with below standard players if we want to try and achieve what we have this season.”

This is likely to include Leeds Rhinos target Luke Hooley who could be described as both a “strike player” and “pivot.”

With 21 tries to his name this year, Hooley has been one of the stars of the Championship in 2022 and attracted plenty of interest with the Rhinos reportedly the side to have secured his services for 2023 and beyond.

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