BATLEY BULLDOGS could be dragged back into the relegation mix if they are found guilty of fielding an ineligible player.
The West Yorkshire club are being investigated by the Rugby Football League over whether Huddersfield Giants forward Jacob Fairbank should have played in their 28-18 win at Sheffield Eagles on Sunday.
Having signed as a dual-registered player, he came off the bench and scored a try in the 56th minute of their derby against the reigning champions.
The victory, a repeat of last season’s Grand Final, saw Batley rise above Sheffield into sixth place, but there is a claim that the 24-year-old was ineligible to feature.
If found guilty, Batley face a fine and/or points deduction.
The latter could be hugely costly considering they are currently only four points above Whitehaven, who sit 10th in one of five relegation spots.
Although John Kear’s side did beat last Friday’s 5pm Championship signings deadline to lodge Fairbank’s registration, it is argued the second-row had not played enough games for them to be processed.
The RFL’s laws state players must have made at least three appearances before the signing deadline to figure on dual-registration after it and the Halifax-born player had featured just twice.
It is up to the club to ensure such signings are eligible.
It emerged Dewsbury Rams are being investigated too after Bradford Bulls’ Sam Wood played for them on dual-registration last Sunday and Doncaster are in a similar position given they fielded Hull FC centre Ben Crooks, Super League’s Young Player of the Year.
The rule is in place to prevent lower division teams fielding Super League players in crucial games either at the top or foot of the table when play-offs and relegation are being decided.
“We haven’t deliberately played somebody when we’ve been told not to play them,” insisted Batley chairman Kevin Nicholas.
“We have got to provide a response by (today), which we will do and we’ll see what position the RFL take after that.”
With five regular games remaining, Batley are still hoping to finish positively and flourish in the play-offs but they may yet be looking over their shoulders.
An RFL spokesman said: “We are investigating allegations Batley Bulldogs fielded an ineligible player against Sheffield Eagles last Sunday.”