BIG THINGS are expected of Wakefield Trinity’s teenage forward James Batchelor – and he could force his way into the side for their Betfred Super League opener at Hull KR in 20 days’ time.
The 19-year-old’s 2017 season was ended early by injury after 10 senior appearances, but has impressed in Trinity’s first two trial games and will have another opportunity when a young squad visit Batley Bulldogs tomorrow.
The game will come a day short of a year after Batchelor signed a long-term contract keeping him at Wakefield until the end of 2021 and coach Chris Chester reckons he has a big future.
“He is just coming back off a serious injury, he has had hip surgery and missed four months,” Chester pointed out.
“He looked a bit rusty against Leeds on Boxing Day, but played 70 minutes.
“I thought he showed some really good signs against Halifax last week and the good thing about Batch’ as well is he can kick goals.
“He has been working hard on his goal kicking and that in itself is priceless to us.
“He is certainly in my thoughts; I like to carry a back-rower on my bench – along with two front-rowers and a hooker – and it’s whoever performs best over the next couple of weeks will be starting and on the bench against Hull KR.”
Chester is set to field a first-choice team against Huddersfield Giants next Saturday. Batchelor will line up tomorrow alongside nine first team squad members, including Craig Huby – making his first appearance of pre-season – and new signing Pauli Pauli, with 14 academy players also set to feature.
Chester said: “It’s important to give people like James Batchelor, Jordan Crowther and Max Jowitt – at the younger end of the first team squad – as much game time as possible to give them chance to play in that Hull KR game on February 2.
“The three guys I’ve mentioned are definitely in my thoughts come the Hull KR game.”
Of Batley, Chester warned “They are a good side. It will be a very good test for our youngsters.
“We did the same last year when we went to Dewsbury and came out with a victory, but the most pleasing thing for me was the toughness they showed that day.
“I am looking for that same toughness this week and for the first-team players to lead by example.”
Bulldogs boss Matt Diskin is disappointed not to see more big-name players in Trinity’s squad, but said he understands Chester’s selection decision.
“They are going to blood some talented academy kids, which is good for them,” Diskin said.
“From a commercial point of view it is a bit frustrating, but I can understand Chris Chester’s point of view.
“We are just concentrating on ourselves, there are certain things we need to work on and look at.”
With 22 days until their opening Betfred Championship fixture, at Rochdale Hornets, Diskin reckons Bulldogs’ pre-season has been “really positive”.
He added: “We’ve made some really big strides forward from where we were this time last year and we’re confident in the depth we’ve got now.
“That should give us a bit more consistency of performance, which let us down at times last year.”
Wakefield Trinity: from Ackroyd, Ashen, Aydin, Bailey, Batchelor, Colethorpe, Croft, Crowther, Gwaze, Hiddleston, Hooley, Huby, Jones, Jowitt, Kamano, Kershaw, Lewis, Moxon, Newbound, Pauli, J Schofield, T Schofield, Wray.
Referee: Brandon Robinson (Dewsbury).
Kick-off: Tomorrow, 2pm.
Meanwhile, former winger Jack Perry, who was Wakefield Trinity’s oldest surviving player, has died aged 93.
Perry played for Wakefield from 1943-48, scoring 85 tries and 112 goals in 134 appearances, before joining Batley in a £100 transfer.
He retired after a short stint with Doncaster in 1955.