How Bradford Bulls could have lined up if they hadn’t lost their star players

Fullback – Lee Gaskell – The former St Helens youngster was a pivotal part of Bradford’s quest to gain promotion back to Super League in 2015: and had he not been injured in the Qualifiers at Wakefield, perhaps the story could have had a different ending. Now at Huddersfield and back fully-fit, Gaskell looks like the player who once dominated the Championship in a Bulls shirt.

Wing – Curtis Naughton – It’s easy to forget that Naughton did indeed make one senior appearance for Bradford before heading to Australia to chance his arm with Sydney Roosters. Now on loan at Leigh following a spell with Hull FC, Naughton’s versatility makes him a handy addition for any squad.

Centre – Ryan Atkins – The Warrington Wolves centre is still in peak condition and top form even at the age of 31. Atkins was crucial in Warrington’s run to both major finals last season and had he not left the Bulls when he did to join Wakefield way back in 2006, who knows how different things could have been for the Bulls’ fortunes.

Centre – Alex Mellor – Mellor, like a couple of other players on the list, is only a recent departure from the Bulls. However, he already looks like a Super League centre after just a handful of games for Huddersfield Giants. He remains one of the Bulls’ best youth products in recent years: but he has slipped through the net following their financial turmoil.

Wing – James Clare – Clare’s season has been cruelly hampered by injury since joining Leigh Centurions but had the Bulls emerged unscathed throughout the off-season, he would have been a vital part of their team in 2017. Since joining from Castleford, Clare had quickly established himself as a real fan favourite.

Stand-off – Jarrod Sammut – The maverick half-back was a real fan favourite during his time at Odsal, and there was even speculation he could have returned to the club last season. It wasn’t to be however, and Sammut is now settled in the capital with London Broncos.

Scrum-half – Luke Gale – Gale left Bradford in the wake of the Bulls’ relegation from Super League at the end of 2014: and he’s not done bad for himself since. He’s now a back-to-back Albert Goldthorpe Medal winner, a fully-fledged England international and one of the most revered half-backs in Super League.

Prop – George Burgess – Twin brother Thomas stayed around at Bradford a while longer than George before heading to the NRL, but there’s no doubting that had the Bulls somehow managed to keep hold of the trio when they left, they would be in a much healthier state than they are now.

Hooker – Adam O’Brien – Scott Moore impressed on his Bradford debut last weekend but the loss of homegrown talent Adam O’Brien is still being felt at Odsal. He left for a chance in Super League with Huddersfield and, although he has since returned to the Championship with Halifax, O’Brien is a big miss for the new-look Bulls.

Prop – Sam Burgess – What’s there to be said?

Second-row – John Bateman – Like Luke Gale, Bateman left Bradford after the Bulls were relegated from Super League in 2014. And like Gale, Bateman has become not only a pivotal part of his club’s side, but also a key member of Wayne Bennett’s England squad ahead of this year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Second-row – Brett Ferres – Over 10 years have passed since Brett Ferres left Odsal as a youngster for a chance at more first-team rugby with Wakefield, but even now, the 30-year-old remains one of the best back-rowers in Super League. Who knows how different the script may have been if he’d stayed at Odsal.

Loose-forward – Elliott Whitehead – Whitehead left Bradford midway through 2014 for a chance in France with Catalans Dragons, and he will not have regretted his decision to leave given how his career has progressed. But if the Bulls had managed to keep hold of him when he did leave, they would have had a world-class forward on their hands by now.