Kear & Brough: Old sparks reigniting at the Bulls in 2021

As coach and on-field general, John Kear and Danny Brough have plenty of miles in the tank together.

This season they will team up for a third time in their varied careers at Bradford Bulls, and the coach sees the 38-year-old playmaker as an integral part of his plans for 2021.

Previously they have won a Challenge Cup together for Hull FC in 2005, with Brough kicking the decisive – if straight forward – late conversion in an upset 25-24 win over Leeds Rhinos.

Next the pair helped Wakefield to finish fifth in Super League in 2009 before both later headed for pastures new.

And when Kear needed an experienced leader in the middle of the field to fire his Championship promotion bid, and Brough’s contract at Trinity was up following his second spell there, it was a natural fit for both men.

It renewed a Rugby League relationship that first started at York’s old Huntington Stadium, when Kear went to watch a bullish young scrum-half playing for the Knights while he was in charge of Hull.

“The first time I met him was when he was playing at York in 2004, and he had the ball on a string,” Kear told journalists at the club’s media day last week.

“I was very optimistic I could get him to come and play for me at Hull and he felt he should be in Super League even then.

“That confidence is still there, and you don’t want someone who’s a shrinking violet at halfback, you need someone assertive and dominant like Danny.”

Kear says that is already shining through in training, providing his squad with something they have been missing in recent years.

“I just felt, in that 2019 season, that we were missing a bit of hard-nosed professionalism and didn’t always know how to close games out,” Kear said.

“Toronto at home was a perfect example; we put ourselves in a great position to cause quite an upset, but couldn’t get over the line.

“The likes of Danny Brough and Aaron Murphy can help with that, and they’ve added to the squad in a really good way.

“They’ve been first class and really good with advice to the others, as they’re smart Rugby League players.

“With Danny, it doesn’t matter whether it’s an Academy product or an established pro, he treats them all the same.

“He might only be a little halfback, but he’s not afraid to give them a spray if they’ve not been good enough in a training session.

“It was vitally important to sign the likes of Danny, who we brought in to get us to the Grand Final, and if we get to one, to win it.

“Jordan Lilley has blossomed under his guidance, and that partnership is really exciting. I think they’ll light up the Championship.”

For Brough’s part, he has made no secret of the fact that Kear’s presence was a key factor in his decision to extend his playing career.

“The main reason behind coming here obviously was John’s influence to try and help me on the coaching side along the way,” Brough told the Yorkshire Post last week.

“I would like to go into coaching eventually. That’s the plan, but hopefully I can help the halfbacks here at the club as well.”

The vastly experienced goalkicker also joked that being in four or five days a week was not that dissimilar to being full-time in Super League – but on a “quarter of the wage for the same amount of time!”

What’s clear is that Kear and Brough are two big personalities that will be central to whatever Bradford achieve this year.

It’s unlikely to be dull.

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