Match Of My Years – Part 1 – The Power of Odsal’s Doughnuts

In a new feature, League Express writers detail some of their most vivid memories during their time on the terraces, and not in the press box.

In this installment, Bradford fan Lorraine Marsden recalls the Bulls taking on Leeds Rhinos, way back in September 1999.

We all have one of those ‘I was there’ moments in our life.

For some, it will be their presence at a major world event, for others they’ll simply be reminiscing at being at a major sporting event and witnessing a great feat of scoring achievement.

But there are other times when a now seemingly insignificant fixture can evoke the strongest memories. One such occasion for me, was when I was one of the 24,020 packed inside Odsal Stadium for the penultimate game of the 1999 regular Super League season, not that I could actually see much of it.

Despite arriving at the ground not much later than usual, the stands were already full and we couldn’t even get down to our usual standing spot, just in front of the ‘Touchdown Bar’. In fact, the only place me, my sister Pauline, and a number of our Rhinos supporting friends could stand was up on the very top concourse of Odsal.

When they had emerged, the players down on the pitch looked like ants, but we didn’t care – we were there.

The Bulls had already been confirmed as Minor Premiers for that season, while Leeds were still in the running for second spot. Yes, the hosts were looking to maintain their 100 per cent record at Odsal, but as ever it was local pride and bragging rights that were at the top of everyone’s wish list.

The crowd, which broke all Super League records at the time, was the result of weeks of advertising and publicising by both clubs as the rivalry between both clubs was at fever pitch.

But it was Leeds’ intention from the start to spoil the party and from a personal point of view several things were already going wrong in the opening stages.

In an era where banners were a popular sight in stadia, Sky Sports would usually show the best during the broadcast. So as well as spending an hour cutting up newspaper into little squares for the famous Ticker Tape entrance, myself and Pauline also created a huge banner in homage to Jimmy Lowes.

It read ‘Every game has highs and lows, but our highs is Jimmy Lowes’, which really isn’t great grammar from someone who just over six years later would be embarking on a career reporting on days like this.

But from our vantage point up at road level, Sky were never going to pick it up, and then when Lowes went off injured after half an hour it was redundant anyway.

More pressing than that though, despite a thorough search, we had been unable to go to the game armed with our lucky, half-time mini doughnuts – and boy, did our friends know about it.

It had somehow become a thing that season, that if the Bulls were losing at half-time and we ate our doughnuts, they would come back and take the points. It didn’t do much for our bank balance, or our waistlines, but that’s what sport can sometimes do to you.

So when Leeds went into the break 10-2 ahead, me and Pauline were ready to give up and accept the ribbing we were no doubt going to get from all our friends and all the pub regulars we’d face back in our Leeds local after the game.

The second half started with Leeds continuing to dominate, and among the group of us that were there, we were starting to question where Stuart, another Bulls fan, had disappeared to.

It was then the magic happened. Stuart suddenly appeared and threw a paper bag at Pauline and me, saying: “These better work, I’ve been queueing 20 minutes for them.”

In the bag – doughnuts. We had to try, and between the three of us, we guzzled them down as quickly as humanly possible, without making ourselves sick.

It worked and within minutes the Bulls were back in the game at 10-10 and an enthralling final 15 minutes followed.

Both sides traded another try in a tense finish before Aussie fullback Michael Withers stepped up to kick the winning drop goal.

As it turned out we were in the perfect spot to see his first-ever field goal sail through the uprights, so standing where we were, suddenly had its advantages. We celebrated a victory that tasted as sweet as the doughnuts we’d finish half an hour earlier, as the rest of our group were left with their heads in their hands.

Some people will claim that the kicking game of Steve McNamara spearheaded the second half Bulls fightback, but I think we can all agree, it was actually doughnut power!!