23 July 2023

Departing Batley boss Craig Lingard says Wembley trip ‘our own Hollywood script’

23 July 2023

The west Yorkshire town of Batley is no stranger to Hollywood scripts having hosted the likes of Frank Sinatra and Jayne Mansfield in the heyday of the town’s famous Variety Club.

But Batley Bulldogs head coach Craig Lingard believes his side have written an equally improbable chapter in the town’s history after beating York Knights on Sunday to reach Wembley for the first time in their 143-year history.

Batley, who were the first winners of the rugby league Challenge Cup in 1898 and 1899 when the final was played at Headingley, will face Halifax Panthers in the 1895 Cup final for second and third-tier sides following the main final on August 12.

It will provide a fitting send-off for Lingard, who has graced the club as both a player and coach for nearly two decades, and will leave to join Castleford as a full-time assistant coach at the end of the season.

Lingard told the PA news agency: “It’s a very emotional feeling because this club have been such a big part of my life, and I guess with me leaving at the end of the year it’s our own version of a Hollywood script.

“So many great people have been through this club and to be part of the first group that will be going to Wembley is an unbelievable feeling.”

Lingard inspired Batley’s run to last year’s Championship Grand Final where they were beaten by Leigh, and they have defied the odds again this term as they currently sit third in the table, despite operating on one of the smallest budgets in the division.

“I have no regrets about my decision to leave – it was a case of what else could I achieve at a club that has done so much despite not spending a great deal of money,” added Lingard.

“We reached a Grand Final last year and we’re going to Wembley this year, and there is the possibility of reaching another Grand Final too. It is something that everybody at this club richly deserves.”

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