Bradford Bulls head coach James Lowes believes the club is in a similar position to when he first joined in the mid ’90s.
At that time Bradford Northern had just become the Bulls and Lowes became a hero as the club enjoyed its most successful era.
Now he has been handed the task of revitalising a Bulls outfit who suffered relegation from Super League at the end of the 2014 season.
“It’s a bit like when I joined [as a player]. Odsal was always a tough place to come and Bradford Northern were up and down for many years, then in ’96 Peter Deakin grabbed the concept and took the marketing side and blew it out of the water,” recalled Lowes.
“There was a buzz about the place, families were here and we did a lot of work in the schools and it was a happy environment. It’s got that feel about it now and there’s a buzz about the place.”
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Just as in the mid-90s, it is a rebuilt Bulls side with a lot of new faces and a feel of a new start at Odsal.
“I’d have liked to have done a new start in Super League, but we didn’t make the cut and we know where and who we are playing,” he said.
“Irrelevant of the competition level we are at, I’m just looking forward to playing rugby and to the challenges that we’ll have – there’s some tough places to play rugby.”
With the Bulls remaining full-time, other coaches and officials in the new-look Championship as pushing Bradford as strong favourites to do well in 2015.
“I’m not bothered about what the pundits say,” said Lowes.
“I had six great years as a player at Hunslet and visited all the places where we will be playing this year.
“I’ve done them all and they’re tough places to play but Rugby League is a tough game, let’s just get on with it. We’ll go to these tough places, play some tough rugby and enjoy it.
“Relegation meant that we lost some players and we’ve been through the mill the last couple of years, so there were always going to be changes. I’m very happy with the players we’ve kept alongside some good young players, and we’ve also added some very decent players.
“In every sport you try to unearth a gem and you take a chance in doing that – we’ve researched the players we’ve brought in, and I’ll make a comparison to Michael Withers who arrived at Odsal as a massive unknown, but who became a superstar.
“Our new players have come and ripped into training and are trying hard to make an opportunity work for them, which is only good for the club.”
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Ins: Jean-Phillipe Baile (Catalan Dragons – centre), Paul Clough (St Helens – prop/second row), Karl Davies (Mackay Cutters – prop), Dan Fleming (Castleford Tigers – prop), Vila Halafihi (Penrith Panthers – hooker), Jake Mullaney (Salford Red Devils – full-back), Dave Petersen (Mackay Cutters – utility forward), Jay Pitts (Hull FC – second row), Ryan Shaw (Barrow Raiders – centre), Harry Siejka (Wakefield T Wildcats – scrum-half), Samir Tahraoui (Whitehaven – prop), Etu Uaisele (Featherstone – wing/centre), Chris Ulugia (Mackay Cutters – utility back), Lucas Walshaw (Wakefield T Wildcats – second-row/centre), Danny Williams (Salford Red Devils – wing).
Outs: Jamal Fakir (Lezignan), Matt Diskin (retired, joined coaching staff), James Donaldson (Hull KR), Luke Gale (Castleford Tigers), Elliot Kear (London Welsh RU), Manase Manuokafoa (Widnes Vikings), Sam Wood (Dewsbury). Released – Brad Adams, Jamie Foster, Brett Kearney, Emmerson Whittel.
Bradford Bulls 2015 squad: Danny Addy, Jean-Phillipe Baile, Sam Bates, Matty Blythe, Paul Clough, Nathan Conroy, Karl Davies, Dale Ferguson, Dan Fleming, Lee Gaskell, Luke George, Vila Halafihi, Adam Henry, Alex Mellor, Jake Mullaney, Adam O’Brien, Tom Olbison, Dave Petersen, Jay Pitts, Adrian Purtell, Ryan Shaw, Adam Sidlow, Harry Siejka, Samir Tahraoui, Etu Uaisele, Chris Ulugia, Chev Walker, Lucas Walshaw, Danny Williams.
Friendlies: Jan 11 – Castleford Tigers (a); Jan 18 – Huddersfield Giants (h); Jan 25 – Leeds Rhinos (a).