Swinton Lions’ initial goal for 2023 has to be remaining in the Betfred Championship following their promotion from League 1, according to returning star Gavin Bennion.
The Lions were beaten 18-6 in a tight contest against Newcastle Thunder in their season opener last week, and as they prepare for the trip to Batley Bulldogs on Sunday there is a need for Swinton to show they belong in the second tier having come up via the play-offs last year.
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And Bennion, who returns from Rochdale Hornets for a second permanent spell at Heywood Road to add to three loan stints, believes that the Lions need to gain a foothold in this division before beginning to set their sights higher.
“I think that’s the number-one priority, we’ve got to stay in the comp,” Bennion tells The Sportsman. “We’re definitely more than capable of doing it. I think we’ll surprise a few people as well, we’ve got a strong squad there at the minute and if we pull together like we have been doing in training we’ll cause some upsets along the way.
“Swinton definitely belongs higher up the league, and we’re doing all the right things now so we can build on it. The main priority is to stay in the Championship this year and build on that, and hopefully in a year or two we can start to push to be an established middle-of-the-Championship side.”
The 29-year-old says his return to Swinton, for whom he first played as a loanee from Warrington Wolves in 2013, suits him down to the ground in both a professional and personal capacity, and he was an interested onlooker when the club gained promotion by beating Doncaster 16-10 in the League 1 play-off final last October.
“I’m happy to be back. It’s relatively close to where I’m working and I’m really enjoying it,” he adds. “Training’s been really good, all the boys are really good, we have a good laugh but it’s serious as well.
“I watched that play-off game against Doncaster and it was so close towards the end that you didn’t know who was going to win. But to come away and get that win and get promotion back to the Championship was awesome. It’s where the club needs to be, and hopefully we can cement that spot and stay there this year.”
The trip to Batley, who started their Championship season with a 30-20 win at London Broncos last week, kicks off at 3pm at the Fox’s Biscuit Stadium on Sunday.
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