Batley Bulldogs boss Craig Lingard joins Castleford Tigers as new assistant coach
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The 45-year-old Championship club head coach has enjoyed fantastic success with the Bulldogs, including guiding them to the Million Pound Game against Leigh last year after seeing off Featherstone Rovers in a thrilling semi-final.
As a player, Lingard played 205 times for Batley, becoming their all-time leading try scorer with 142, and has had a stand named after him at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium.
He has taken up the role of assistant coach at Cas immediately and will also remain as head coach at Batley until the end of the 2023 campaign, after which he will be solely at Wheldon Road.
Lingard is delighted to be given his first Super League opportunity with the Tigers.
He said: “It’s been good to get down and get my first day out of the way.
"It’s been a really good day because everyone has been really welcoming and it’s been good to get out on that field for that first session.
“It’s been good to get straight out there on the field and get some drills done and watch the boys in action. It’s an exciting time for me and an exciting time for the club over the next few years.”
Lingard does not believe splitting himself between two jobs for the rest of the season will cause any difficulties.
He explained: “It will be pretty simple because Batley train on the night because with part-time rugby you train in the evening.
"With full-time rugby, you train during the day so I will be able to balance the two pretty easily.
"I made a commitment to the players at Batley that we were going to see the season out together and I’m really thankful that Castleford have given me the chance to do that.
“I’ll have very fond memories there because it’s a club that’s played a massive part in my life. I signed there in 1998 and spent 10 years as a player then came back as assistant coach and then as head coach.
"Over the last couple of seasons, we’ve been successful with a semi-final and a Grand Final appearance.”
After coaching at lower league level with the likes of Bramley and Keighley Cougars as well as Batley, Lingard has certainly served his apprenticeship as he begins his first coaching position in the top tier.
He continued: “I think it’s the right time for me personally and I think it’s the right time for Batley and someone else to have an opportunity.
"My ambition has always been to try and coach in Super League and move from that part-time environment so thankfully I’ve been able to do that at Castleford.”
Lingard is looking forward to working with Castleford’s recently appointed head coach Andy Last.
He added: “If you think that you’ve learned everything then you stagnate and you will stay where you are. It’s important for me that I look to learn from other people and hopefully I can benefit Andy with the experience I have had over the last five or six years as a head coach.
“Andy has worked with some first-class coaches throughout his career and although it is his first full-time gig as a head coach, he has worked under some world-class coaches so his knowledge will be up there.
“I like to have that trust with the players because I’m not a massive fan of the robotic style. I like players to see what’s in front of them, count numbers and play at numbers as well.
"I will be guided by Lasty as it’s his team but I’m sure I’ll get that opportunity to put my stamp on things which will come the more time I spend down here.
“It’s a project and it’s something that we are confident we can put into place and have many successful seasons.”
Lingard’s first match with his new club will be a big clash under the lights against Catalans Dragons.
“It’ll be great to be here on Friday. It’s always a great occasion down here and I’ve been down a few times commentating on Radio Leeds so I know what the atmosphere is like and I know if we get the performance right, I’m sure the place will be bouncing.”
Head coach Last is pleased to have such a knowledgeable assistant on board alongside him at the Tigers.
He explained: “I’m really pleased that Craig has decided to join us.
"I had a couple of good chats with him face-to-face and got a really good feel for the type of person that he is and the type of coach that he is.
"He’s got great experience. He understands what it takes to win. His teams are difficult to play against and they’re creative. He’s done a really good job at Batley, so I’m pleased to have him on board.
“His experience is something that I’ll be able to lean on heavily. The fact that he’s been a head coach for a number of years in the Championship and his understanding of the Championship will benefit us in terms of recruitment opportunities and players who could potentially step up to Super League.
"I think the fact that he’s a former full-back, he can take a bit more of a lead on the attacking side of things. He’s knowledgeable and he has a good eye for the game, and I just feel he’ll be a really good fit for us.”