‘A unique piece of history for our town’ - Batley Bulldogs chairman issues rallying call for local businesses to treat employees to Wembley day out
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Having beaten York Knights in the semi-finals on Sunday, the Bulldogs, winners of three Challenge Cups, will now take on Halifax Panthers at the famous stadium for the first time in their 143-year history.
And Nicholas has issued a rallying call for as many people, donned in cerise, gold and white, as possible to make the journey to the capital. He said:
“We took good support to York so I am confident we will have some good support at Wembley. It would be nice if we could get some even more support. The only drawback is the cost, the travel and the ticket - that is the only thing that worries me about people not being able to afford to go.
“A friend of mine rang me up and said, ‘What about all the decent sized companies in Batley treating their employees and paying for a coach ticket and a match ticket for Wembley and getting more people there?’
“That would be brilliant if every company in Batley says we’re treating our employees to a day out for the town and we got even more people there. Whether that would appeal to companies in Batley, I don’t know, but that would be my rallying call for the companies of Batley to help their employees have a day out at Wembley which is a unique piece of history for the town.”
Reflecting on Sunday’s game at the LNER Community Stadium, which Batley won 22-8, Nicholas said:
“Before the match they had beaten Halifax and Sheffield so we knew if we’d taken them lightly we had every chance of getting beat. But equally, we knew our players were focussed on getting to Wembley, which they have been all year.
“Personally, I was pretty confident that we could do it. We were clearly the better team in the first half and when Leaky (Alistair Leak) scored in the second half to go 20-0 up, I honestly thought we were home and dry.
“We probably pushed a little bit a couple of times and before you know it they have got a couple of scores. I still felt, with our resilience that we’d get through but I thought we needed a drop goal so they needed to score three times. We didn’t go for the drop goal and then, luckily, we got that penalty and Luke (Hooley) made sure.
“I think there were only about ten minutes where it was a little bit nervy when they got back in it at 20-8 but I always thought we were the better team and knew we had enough strength of character to hold out.
“They are a special group of players that we have got this year.”
Of those special players, captain James Brown declared to the chairman that “he’s the best captain this club has ever had!”
“Browny thinks he’s Captain Marvel,” Nicholas revealed. “I told him, ‘Get us to Wembley first and we’ll talk about it!’
“With his achievements, he probably is but don’t tell him that!”
But Nicholas insists there is no pressure on the group ahead of Batley’s historic day. He said:
“I’m not trying to build up any pressure whatsoever because, whatever happens, we have had a brilliant season, no matter what. I just love rugby. We will just perform the best we can. If that’s good enough, brilliant, if it isn’t and we’ve given everything, then what more can you ask.”
Messages of support have been coming in for the Bulldogs from local leaders since their victory at the weekend.
MP for Batley and Spen, Kim Leadbeater, said:
“I am absolutely delighted that Batley Bulldogs have made it to Wembley for the first time ever. The Bulldogs are a great example of sporting excellence but also a club that is at the heart of the community.
“They are a fantastic team on and off the pitch. They work incredibly hard and that’s what lies behind this great success.
“I look forward to seeing them raise the trophy at Wembley next month!”
Shabir Pandor, Leader of Kirklees Council and councillor for Batley West, added:
“This is an excellent result for Batley Bulldogs. Congratulations to the players and everyone involved. I’m delighted for the players, staff and fans of Batley Bulldogs.
“Once again they’ve done our town proud and put Batley on the sporting map. They deserve their appearance at Wembley and I wish them the very best of luck for the final.”