DISCORD 2014: Edition Eight

DiscordBy STEVE MASCORD
LET’S face it, the NRL didn’t do a very good job of proving that players WERE concussed when their clubs allowed them to play on over the past season or so
But now, we are being assured, the League is hellbent on proving they are NOT concussed when – or if – the new concussion guidelines are exploited to get a free interchange.
The bottom line is that it’s a good thing the League is doing something to protect players against themselves, and the sport in this country against bankrupcy which would surely come with an NFL-style class action. An American expert told the club CEOs by video conference recently that the legal action they would likely face would completely ruin them financially.
But the NRL has never taken action against clubs for flaunting the rules as they existed before. Even video of a player being given smelling salts was not considered compelling enough as evidence of an infraction. Players stumbled around on national television and nothing was done.
So it’s hard to believe that collusion that happens behind closed doors, with just a few people involved, to fake a concussion can be adequately policed by the governing body.
Hopefully everyone will just appreciate what is at stake now, and will do the right thing.
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IS deducting points from clubs who go into bankrupcy a bit like executing someone for being dead?
Bradford are on the brink of collapse after their new owners-in-waiting withdrew an offer in response to the Bulls being deducted six competition points for entering administration.
RLF chief operating officer Ralph Rimmer says the would-be owners knew the dangers. Obviously a club going broke is not a good look for the sport and the governing body feels it has the right to respond with some sort of punative measure against those who damaged its brand.
But if there’s a bigger example in professional sport of kicking a dog when it’s down, Discord has not heard it. If the punishment is aimed at clubs who deliberately go into receivership to avoid their debts, why are we punishing the team and the fans, on the field?
Surely we don’t want people who do business in this way involved in our sport OFF the field? Punishing the team by docking points would achieve little but exonerate the RFL of accusations they did nothing.
It’s hard to imagine an NRL club experiencing financial difficulty being docked competitition points. In the past, the administration in Australia has helped clubs in trouble, by either advancing grants or even forwarding loans.
And what of the players still owed money by failed franchises such as the Celtic Crusaders? How does docking competition points help them?
In light of Bradford’s problems, it’s not surprising that the Super League clubs voted against a marquee player system.
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TO those who scoffed at my tweet that Sonny Bill Williams had inspired Sam Burgess’ decision to switch codes, I offer the following quote from Bath coach and former South Queensland Crushers coach Mike Ford on the Rugby League Extra podcast from BBC Radio Manchester:
“I think he’s seen what Sonny Bill Williams has done, switching from one code to the other and how successful he was, playing in New Zealand in thw World Cup in 2011,” said Ford.
“He boxed as well, Sonny Bill.
“That’s the challenge he wants. Sam, once he makes his mind up he wants something, he more or less gets it every time.”
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THANKS to everyone who commented on Discord last week and Set Of Six on Monday.
Alan said the extended 1997 World Club Challenge was good. Most people would describe it as the most disastrous competition in the history of rugby league! As for his comment that State Of Origin was become irrelvant … Alan we dreamers often overlook the importance of tribalism in our game. Tribalism is why we have eight and a half teams in Sydney and none in Western Australia, South Australia or the Northern Territory. There is clearly something to it!
Soot says a summer nines tournament may become irrelevant, like rugby union sevens. I’m sure the boffins at Rugby League Central would be happy to achieve that level of irrelevance. It doesn’t matter if the media ignores it, if it keeps the turnstile clicking over the summer, then the concept will do its job.
DOS called for a PNG team on the NRL. As you may be aware, the PNG Hunters are making their Queensland Cup debut against Redcliffe on Sunday – and I’ll be there. But NRL? Is there a Major League Baseball team in Haiti? Where does the television rights income come from? How do you get players to live there? I have serious doubts it will happen in my lifetime.
Frank from Bexley, I suspect, was taking the mick so I won’t be responding to him.
Taffy said he liked my optimism but I thought last week’s column was largely pessimistic! I disagree that no-one debated union players going to league when union was not openly professional – many column inches were devoted to the subject at the time. And clearly hybrid games are commercial attractive because there are powerful forces pushing for them. You are
right, however, to say rugby union in most places would have nothing to gain from rugby league – which makes the prospects I discussed last week even more forboding for league.
I recommend everyone read Friendly_Raptor’s comment at the bottom of last week’s Discord. I agree with Hear The Crow that Eddy Pettybourne should have been sent off on Saturday.
Here‘s the forum:
Subscribe to the podcast here

Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

Comment: The NRL Auckland Nines Must Expand

NRL NinesBy STEVE MASCORD
PROMOTERS of the Auckland Nines aren’t keen to add teams next year – but if the concept is to be of any lasting benefit to rugby league aside from generating truckloads of cash, the NRL must insist on it.
A full house at Eden Park yesterday saw nines league revived at the top level in the southern hemisphere after a 17-year absence and by almost any measure, it was a triumphant return.
Fans came dressed as everyone from Caligula to Steve Matai, they cheered like they were actually paying attention and Warriors stars Sam Tomkins and Shaun Johnson were so good it gave you goosebumps.
This was en event that had the hallmarks of something grand; guides meeting officials and media in their hotel lobbies, fleets of buses, closed streets and even a dedicated lane in customs at Auckland Airport.
In a country where rugby union reigns and some of the old vestiges of anti-league bigotry survive, the NRL Nines is the PR equivalent of a right hook to the temple of the other code.
There are those who say Auckland is actually ‘a league town’ – or close to becoming one, anyway.
But in the past month, people have slowly got their heads around the potential of Nines to expand the sport as a whole.  It beggars belief that most of us didn’t know until this week that rugby league nines is to be played at the Commonweath Games THIS year.
The game seems almost embarrassed about this.
We also have the Cabramatta Nines which showcases a host of international teams – this month, Canada sent a team – and annual tournaments in the north east of the United States and Las Vegas.
Nines has also been played recently in the UK, Germany and elsewhere and now Salford owner Marwan Koukash wants Super League’s Magic Weekend at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium turned into a Nines tournament.
But this new NRL administration is probably unaware of all that.
They have big plans and great expertise but a lack of perspective and knowledge on the state of the game outside their own big-buck Australasian bubble. It’s the same administration that decided on Friday to allow its clubs to raid Super League with transfer fees outside the cap, whereas if they raid each other, the fees are included.
And if there was one negative at Eden Park it was the thought of Wigan – one of our game’s most famous clubs – sitting in the grandstand getting suntans. They wanted to be out there. So, too, did Warrington and there are suggestions even cash-strapped Bradford were clamouring for a spot.
The NRL needs to identify whether it is promoting rugby league as a whole or just itself. And if it’s the former, it needs to determine how the Nines can assist in that objective. Nines will not help expand rugby league while we leave the Super League champions sitting in row G with a few bags of chips.
I understand my earlier idea of having state teams full of NRL stars in the Auckland Nines and using the tournament for some pre-season publicity in non-league states was a bit harebrained. Would the crowds have flocked yesterday to see the might of Tasmania take on the superstars of South Australia? Probably not.
But the NRL needs to get something out of the nines other than money. Underdogs, minnows and exotic combatants are part of the DNA of sevens and nines.  That’s where the charm lies – although many assume it is located behind the bar.
Turn the other tournaments into qualifiers for the NRL Nines and you have an international ‘circuit’ overnight, with a minimum outlay. From there, it’s not too far to see dedicated nines franchises. Why not allow Brad Fittler, Darren Lockyer and Steve Menzies to play for the Washington DC Slayers next year?
What are we so scared of? The fact that Wigan won the World Sevens in 1992, perhaps?
Filed for: SUN-HERALD

TRAVELS: XX

Travelsy STEVE MASCORD

IT’S hard to believe anyone could argue what happened at the Provident Stadium on Sunday was good for the game.

Sky’s Rod Studd sent me an email after a dramatically under-strength Huddersfield was lapped 58-6 by Bradford asking if it could happen in the NRL.

I was already planning to write something about it in the Sydney Morning Herald and my first instinct was to ask the NRL. But it only took a few moments’ thought to come up with the answer without making a call.

Under the second tier salary cap at work in the NRL, there is a limit to the value of lower grade (or feeder team) players you can use in first grade. If you are in dire straits, you can apply for dispensation – but it’s not easily forthcoming.

Penrith, in particular, have been refused permission by the League to use their own contracted players this year, because they were over their second tier cap.

Cronulla and Manly had considerable incentive at the weekend to rest swathes of players, given that their positions in the finals were ensured. Some good players were missing, too – like Anthony Watmough and Todd Carney.

But without the second tier salary cap, it would have been much worse.

”That’s right – I definitely thought about leaving out more,” Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan said after I spoke to him pre-match for Triple M and mentioned events at Bradford.

”We don’t have a problem with our second-tier cap but if there was none, you’d consider resting them all.”

There is no point criticising Huddersfield and their coach, Paul Anderson, over the omission of so many players. He was just playing by the rules. But for the RFL to say it was the best available side is ridiculous.

There is a major problem for sports administrations when it comes to medical matters. An official can’t over-rule a doctor. You get medical certificates and it’s case-closed.

Instead, as detailed above, the RFL needs to put in place disincentives to field under-strength teams. I don’t think Rod’s idea of giving teams a points start in play-offs is the answer … it stops being rugby league then.

Perhaps the RFL needs to introduced a second tier salary cap, with only a limited number of players outside the top 25 to be allowed into the first team each year and exceptions the subject of applications.

That way, if we do have to appoint an independent medical officer to check on injuries, he or she would only be called into play when such an application was made, not every time an injury looked doubtful.

The interesting thing here is that the NRL is considering axing the second tier salary cap. When I told the League’s Shane Mattiske what Huddersifield had done, he promised to raise it at headquarters.

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CAN’T wait for the play-offs to start in both hemispheres this weekend.

The Super League games are being shown on Eurosport in this part of the world and I can report the station is very keen to increase its commitment to the competition next year.

read on

Sliding Doors, Consumed Chickens – The Story Of The Burgess Brothers

Burgess BrothersBy STEVE MASCORD

SOMETIME soon, maybe next year, Sam, Luke, Tom and George Burgess will become the first set of four brothers to play together in a premiership match since 1910.

And the tale of how it came to pass will go back much further than you think, to late June 2004.

Chris Caisley, then the chairman of Super League club Bradford, sits down with former Great Britain five-eighth Iestyn Harris and agrees to bring him back to rugby league from Welsh rugby union for an estimated one million pounds over four seasons. “I am delighted that we have been able to recruit a player of Iestyn’s calibre and standing,” Caisley says in a statement dated July 2.

Harris says he is returning to the north of England for family reasons. Neither he nor Caisley makes any reference tp the fact that Leeds claim an option on Harris’ services should he return to rugby league.

The decision to sign Harris, according to the club’s later administration but not according to Caisley, would drive the Bulls to the brink of permanent closure.

And it would send a boy who was just 12 years old when it happened on a journey that began on the set of a Hollywood motion picture and ended in Sydney. His name is Sam Burgess and before long his brothers Luke, George and Tom and mother Julie would join him on the other side of the world.

But if “I Harris” had not been scrawled on that contract nine years ago, it’s possible members of Sydney’s most famous English family would still be going about their lives in west Yorkshire, as they were at the time.

Over the four years from 2004, Leeds pursued legal action against Harris for not honouring his obligation to rejoin them and Bradford for inducing him to breach his contract. Caisley stepped down from running the Bulls – the most successful team of Super League’s first 10 years – in 2006.

According to the next chairman, Peter Hood, the six figure payout to Leeds seriously gored the Bulls. Caisley denies this – but it did leave the club in serious need of cash.

So when Souths came knocking in late 2009 with an offer to pay a transfer fee for Sam Burgess – by then, 21 – they weren’t in a position to turn them away.

“I was friends with Chris Caisley from my time in Super League, when he was running Bradford and I was at Hull,” Souths CEO Shane Richardson explains.

“He’s the one who brought Sam to my attention. I watched him play, I could see that he was something special.

“Steve Menzies was at Bradford at the time and he had been speaking to Sam about going to Manly. He was about to go there.

“At the time, Russell (Crowe) was over in the UK on a movie set. I told him ‘we’ve got to move on this kid’. He watched him in a couple of matches on television and agreed with me.

“I got Sam’s phone number, Russell called him up and they took him and his mum down to the movie set for a chat.

“Bradford wanted a transfer fee. Yes, I knew they were in financial trouble and needed the money. Transfer fees are not covered by the NRL salary cap so we paid it and Sam became a South Sydney player.”

At the time, the idea that all four Burgesses would end up at Souths was fanciful indeed – although Sam had certainly raised it with the club. Luke, who played for Harlequins, Doncaster and Leeds, was not setting the world on fire at the Rhinos.

“There was an opportunity there because he was out of the first team at Leeds and we had some injuries,” Richardson recalls.

“He came out here, got a chance because of another injury, and ended up playing 18 games for us. It worked out well.”

But snaring George, who’s this year’s Burgess flavour of the month, and Tom was another thing altogether. George, who wasn’t even a Super League player when he joined the red and greens, was always keen to try his luck in Australia.

His twin brother Tom, however, took some convincing before linking up with the Bunnies this year. He played 46 first-team games with Bradford.

The question is, are the Burgesses all at Souths on merit? Coach Michael Maguire says they are.

“I first met Sam overseas, before I came back from Wigan,” he says. “I had heard about him but not met him and I was very impressed with him.

“Now, George, when I first met him he was a giant. You look at him now and the way he’s getting around the field and there’s no comparison with what he was like then.

“That’s a result of the small things people don’t see. They are here to play rugby league and they work hard.

“I don’t necessarily treat them as brothers around the place. I treat them like any other members of staff, although there are positives to having brothers in the club.”

The Burgesses aren’t on a media ban, as such, but there is a Souths strategy at work aimed at minimising their profile. When you look at the size of them, that’s no mean feat.

Sam fronts up at all in media opportunities, Luke is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury, George says very little and Tom is being discouraged from doing interviews until he makes first grade.

The last time four brothers played first grade together was 103 years ago, when Ray, Roy, Rex and Bernard Norman played for Annandale. It’s fair to say they may have all just shown up to training together one Tuesday night, rather than been put through the rigorous filtering system employed by pro clubs these days.

“Family is one of the four pillars of this club,” says Richardson. “The others are passion, uniqueness and innovation.

“Having four brothers at this club really makes it like a family. It shows people how we feel about family.

“And now their mother is here too, working around the club.”

Sitting in the background is Caisley. He recently attempted to wrest back control of the Bulls as they floundered under enormous financial pressure before a new owner was found.

Now concentrating on his legal business, Caisley has recently found himself writing to the local paper to defend his reputation against the suggestion his Harris deal ruined what was once a model Super League franchise.

But his role in the Burgesses’ success is a source of pride.

“He isn’t a manager, he is a mentor to the boys – they trust him with their lives,” says Richardson. “It’s similar to the way Russell feels – not like a father but almost like a father.

“I know Chris is proud of what the boys have achieved and I know they are grateful for how he has helped them achieve it.”

When it finally happens and Sam, Luke, George and Tom Burgess run out together in the cardinal and myrtle, it’s to be hoped Caisley gets enough notice to be there. Regardless of how the history of the Bradford Bulls is written, his impact on a family that lost a father and husband to motor neuron disease a decade ago has been profoundly positive.

As for the rest of us, don’t be surprised if Maguire springs the historic moment on the wider world an hour before kick off, to save the boys from a media circus.

The coach laughs. “That’s a fair chance,” he says.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

Super League round 16: HUDDERSFIELD 42 BRADFORD 6 at Etihad Stadium, Manchester

By SOPHIE ARNOLD

HUDDERSFIELD coach Paul Anderson asserted his desire to play tough as his side kept the pressure on Wigan at the top of the table.
The Giants gave Bradford a lesson in defending as they romped home with a more-than-convincing seven-try win.
Back rower Dale Ferguson opened the floodgates with a comfortable effort in the 10th minute with fullback Scott Grix crossing the line three minutes later.
“This group are working very hard at the moment – we want to go through teams not around them. I’d be lying if I said i didn’t tell the players we owed them one,” said Anderson, in reference to a big Bradford win over thew Giants earlier this year.
Bradford’s hopes were lifted by a possible Elliott Kear try four minutes after the Grix touchdown but they were dashed when it was disallowed for offside.
Huddersfield - Paul AndersonBut the die was well and truly cast in the 24th minute as replacement Larne Patrick ducked through several Bulls defenders to find the corner, making the score 18-0 at halftime.
“Our performance was workmanlike and we created a lot of chances,” said Anderson. “Every time we decided to be direct, we created havoc.”
Another opportunity for Bradford was granted when Grix failed to catch an easy kick, but it was thwarted as Giants defenders forced Chev Walker to drop the ball.
A spectacular 40-20 from Danny Brough in the 42nd minute was wasted as Giants failed to convert.
Ferguson scored his second at 54 minutes by breaking through the Bulls defence, leaving in his way only Jamie Foster,who was easily floored to stretch the gap to 24-0.
The Bulls finally made it onto the board in the 61st minute as winger Kear grabbed a well placed kick and sent fullback Foster over in the corner, flanked by two defenders.
The try failed to stem the flow with Patrick, prop Craig Kopczak, centre Brett Ferres and replacement Anthony Mullally all making it over the line in the last 15 minutes to confirm their superiority.
Bulls boss Francis Cummins was left disappointed with the missed opportunity to pull three points clear of St Helens in the table but conceded the result was fair.
Cummins said: “It was a bad day at the office, but they were the better team. We have people missing and there were some below par performances in there.”

HUDDERSFIELD 42 (D Ferguson 2 S Grix L Patrick S Lunt B Ferres A Mullally tries D Brough 7 goals) bt BRADFORD 6 (Foster try goal) at Etihad Stadium. Referee: J Child.

Final team lists:
BRADFORD: Jamie Foster; Elliot Kear, Matty Blyth, Keith Lulia, Adrian Purtell; Danny Addy, Jarrod Sammut; Chev Walker, Elliot Whitehead, Tom Olbison, Jamie Langley, Heath L’Estrange, Nick Scruton. Res: Matt Diskin, James Donaldson, Ben Evans. Jacob Fairbank

HUDDERSFIELD: Scott Grix; Jermaine McGillvary, Leroy Cudjoe, Brett Ferres, Aaron Murphy; Danny Brough, Luke Robinson; Dale Ferguson, Jason Chan, Ukuma Ta’ai, Craig Kopczak, Shaun Lunt, Eorl Crabtree. Res: Larne Patrick, Jamie Cording, Anthony Mullally, Brad Dwyer.

Roy Asotasi: I’m Not Joining Bradford

South Sydney - Roy AsotasiBy STEVE MASCORD

SAMOA captain Roy Asotasi says he hasn’t even spoken to Bradford, with whom he has been strongly linked for next season.

“I saw that in the paper – I don’t know who their sources are but that is definitely lies,” said the South Sydney giant.

“I am definitely not talking to Bradford. I definitely haven’t been negotiating with any clubs right now.

“I’ll see how the next month goes. I’m off contract this year and I’ll start talking. To be honest, I haven’t really focused on what my next step is because I’ve just been focusing on this week and trying to play good football for Souths.

“I guess I’d probably have to say I’ll be thinking about it soon. There’s a lot of links but there’s no truth in it.

“If negotiations are happening, they’ll definitely be out there. They won’t be behind the scenes or posted in papers because players want it known they are negotiating with clubs.”

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

THE WRAP: NRL Finals 2012: Week Two

By STEVE MASCORD

FOR James Graham, not making a grand final would be an unsettling break with routine.

Playing with mighty St Helens, the 27-year-old Canterbury forward has appeared in the last six successive grand finals going into his rematch with compatriot Sam Burgess ion Saturday night – where he hopes to secure his place in a seventh.

St Helens have not missed an appointment with Old Trafford since 2005. They’ve won just once in that time, however, with Wigan and Leeds getting the better of them on the other occasions.

But as an average margin of 30 points on the first weekend of the Super League play-offs last weekend illustrated, there are big differences between the competitions at this time of year.

“The hype around the game in Australia compared to the game in England is huge,” says Burgess, who clashed with Graham when they last met in round 13.

“There’s a big build-up, it feels like a big game … it’s a huge pinnacle in the sport.

“It’s big back home but Australia just pips it. Finals football, it’s the talk of everyone when it’s on.

“(Saturday) was one of the most vocal crowds I’ve seen in three years here.”

By comparison with Graham’s eternally successful Bulls, Burgess’ former club Bradford has been at death’s door this year. The Bulls last featured in a grand final the last year St Helens missed out – 2005.

Speaking on radio at the weekend, Burgess said the decision of new coach Michael Maguire (formerly of Wigan) to stop talk of history, premierships to keep show buiness at a distance has made a difference on the field/

“I think to some extent it does,” Burgess told the ABC. “We’re certainly aware of the history and great tradition at the club.

“We’vr got history timelines up at our training ground at the club … but Michael’s approach is we just focus on the week in front and the only thing we can control is our performance and preparation.

read on

Super League round 21: LEEDS 34 BRADFORD 16 at Headingley

By THOMAS McCOOEY

COACH Mick Potter remained pragmatic about his status at Bradford Bulls despite news of a bid to buy the club from the ABC consortium – a group of local Asian businessmen.

In the wake of Friday’s 34-16 defat to Leeds, the Bradford boss – working on a voluntary basis – said: “’ll just see what transpires this week. There is some talk that something might happen this week but I don’t know. I’m still here so I may as well drive into work rather than sit at home.”

The bid is conditional on the Odsal club keeping its Super League status and the lease to the stadium being bought back from the RFL. Administrator Brendan Guilfoyle does not expect anyone to be interested in taking Bradford on as a Championship club and the extended deadline for liquidation (July 27th) is now looming.

When asked if he was any wiser as to what developments were taking place, Potter told the press: “No. No one’s speaking to me, I’m unemployed.”

Leeds chairman Gary Hetherington gave the money from sales of Bradford tickets to the stricken club and the Bradford fans responded by making the short trip in a 4000-strong army.

It didn’t go unappreciated either, as Potter thanked both the Leeds club and the fans from both sides. “Fantastic response from the fans and a great gesture from the Leeds club and Gary Hetherington in what they have done for the club to get some some money back into the Bradford Bulls – which they didn’t have to do. Our fans rolled up as they always do. They’re there all the time to support the club and long may that continue.”

Bradford began the game with the same fire they have been possessed by since their epic win at Wigan at the end of June and struck first with fantastic Elliot Whitehead try thanks to great support play in a move involving Luke Gale and Shaun Ainscough. They were the dominant side for the first quarter until Kallum Watkins scored the first of his two tries but even when Leeds got their house in order with ball in hand, Bradford’s gutsy defence ensured the first half would see no further score.

Although Leeds pulled away in the second half, Potter felt the way the game ended didn’t portray how gutsy his side were.

“I thought perhaps the score didn’t reflect how tough the game was,” he said. “I thought our guys did the best they could and it’s just unfortunate we came up with a couple of errors at crucial times and conceded six points each time.”

Errors costing Bradford included a howler between Jarrod Sammut and Karl Pryce as neither seemed to know what they were doing as a Zak Hardaker kick bore down on them in the 51st minute – the resulting fluff gifting Shaun Lunt a try to put Leeds 18-6 in front.

“I spoke to them after the game about that incident,” revealed Potter. “Karl said he called, Jarrod said he didn’t hear. It’s as simple as that and it resulted in six points. A simple breakdown in communication that burns you.”

Leeds assistant coach James Lowes was happy with how the home side coped with Bradford’s determination, especially after their draining Challenge Cup semi-final last week.

“ Happy with that throughout,” he said. “We were made to work hard for the win, especially after the semi-final. We were on the crest of a wave there and have been emotional all week and that was going to be a factor in the fatigue in our players but I thought we pushed through and were real strong.”

He also called for honesty from those overseeing events at Leeds’ closest rivals and his former club, saying: “It’d be nice to know why they are in this position. I had a fantastic time at the club, a great period as a player. We had some great success there – why it’s come to this, it’d be nice for the fans especially to have a little bit of honesty from behind the scenes. That’s not had a baring on this game. Bradford have come here and worked extremely hard throughout and never gave in. It’s tough for them.”

LEEDS 34 (k Watkins 2 S Lunt Z Hardaker D McGuire K Sinfield tries Sinfield 4 Hardaker goals) bt BRADFORD 16 (E Whitehead O Emila K Pryce tries L Gale 2 goals) at Headingley. Referee: S Ganson. Crowd: 18520

Final team lists:

LEEDS: Zak Hardaker; Ben Jones-Bishop, Kallum Watkins, Brett Delaney, Ryan Hall; Kevin Sinfield, Danny McGuire; Ryan Bailey, Stevie Ward, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Jamie Peacock, Rob Burrow, Kylie Leuluai. Res: Richard Moore, Shaun Lunt, Ian Kirke, Darrell Griffin

BRADFORD: Brett Kearney, Shaun Ainscough, Michael Platt, Keith Lulia, Karl Pryce, Jarrod Sammut, Luke Gale, Manase Manuokafoa, Heath L’Estrange, Bryn Hargreaves, Olivier Elima, Elliot Whitehead, Jamie Langley. Res: Chev Walker, Tom Olbison, Tom Burgess, Adam O’Brien

Halftime: 6-6

 

Super League round 19: BRADFORD 30 WIGAN 22 at DW Stadium

By THOMAS McCOOEY
A BUMPER crowd descended on the DW Stadium for Wigan’s annual Heritage Day but it was crisis-stricken Bradford who wound back the clock with a vintage performance on Friday night.

The Bulls, currently in administration and in desperate need of a backer with the threat of liquidation looming, put in the kind of mettlesome performance typical of sides facing such drama. There is even fear they will not exist to face London Broncos next Sunday but coach Mick Potter is putting that to the back of his mind.

“I’ll be anticipating it,” he said after the 30-22 boilover when asked if he expects to have a side to prepare for round 20.

“I don’t honestly know but I’ll prepare the same as we’ve done for this game and the same since this drama has started so nothing will change until I’m told otherwise. Until that time comes we’ll keep doing out best.”

In the opening minutes it looked as if no one was going to stop Wigan steamroll to a 14th straight victory as Anthony Gelling opened the scoring and debutant Jack Murphy scored a try straight from the Sam Tomkins manual.

But the Bulls hit back to lead at the break, once two-try Pryce had returned from the sin bin for holding down.

“They were pretty determined to get the result,” explained Potter who probably wasn’t thinking about the competition points elevating his men to seventh in Super League.

“Whether they got the result or didn’t I would still be a guy that said our payers had given 100% whether they won or lost,” he continued, expressing  a sentiment shared by the biggest following Bradford had taken to Wigan since their last period of dominance midway through the last decade.

In an emotional acknowledgement from both parties, the Bradford players and fans congratulated each other after the final hooter in an outward declaration that they are not ready to give up just yet.

It’s a feeling Potter shares despite recent lean years in terms of success on the field:

“The club’s a fantastic club. You would like to see it continue and the only way is up. I’m sure that there are people out there who want to invest in the club. We just need to know who they are and get them on board,” he pleaded.

Wigan edged in front again in the early stages of the second half as thunder rumbled in the distance but a red card shown to Michael McIlorum for punching Olivier Elima shifted the balance into Bradford’s favour with a quarter of the game to go.

“I saw two elbows to his head first,” said an irked Shaun Wane, “that’s two things I did see and Mickey retaliated. I don’t know if he actually cracked him one but I’d best not say any more.

“I was shocked to see just him sent off because there are a few things with Elima which I saw today but we need to be stronger,” he added. “He’s better than that (McIlorum) and I won’t accept that from him. But I expect that to be spotted – two elbows to his head.”

Wane was mindful to credit the steely Bulls though, admitting it wasn’t all down to playing the last quarter without McIlorum.

“We were beaten by the better team,” the Wigan coach said. “They wanted it a bit more. They had more of a need to win that game than we did,” he said, though he will have been annoyed that his side could have moved five points clear of the chasing pack with just eight games to go thanks to Salford’s unexpected demolition of Warrington.

“The referee didn’t drop passes like we did and miss important tackles,” said Wane “I don’t want to think about the referee, I just want us to fix our errors and we will. Well have a good week this week,” he promised.

The Wigan boss was also adamant that the short turnaround following Monday’s victory over Widnes had little to do with his men coming-up short on this occasion:

“It didn’t help but I still expect a better performance and I would never accept that as an excuse in any shape or form. We looked after the players this week. They went into that game fresh today.”

He is also confident the result will act as a kick up the backside as his men look to keep their three-point lead at the top against Wakefield next week before heading into a repeat of last year’s Cup final against Leeds to decide who will earn the right to grace Wembley for a second year running.

“A team has turned-up desperate to win and we weren’t on our game but make no mistake – we are a good team. There’s no doubt in my mind. This is a blip which well fix.”
BRADFORD 30(KPryce 2 B Kearney K Lulia E Whitehead tries L Gale 5 goals) bt WIGAN 22 (A Gelling J Murphy B Flower D Crosby tries Charnley 3 goals) at DW Stadium: Referee: T Roby. Crowd: 19,628.

Final team lists:
WIGAN: Jack Murhpy; Josh Charnley, Darrell Goulding, George Carmont, Anothy Gelling; Sean O’Loughlin, Brett Finch; Liam Farrell, Gareth Hock, Rhodri lloyd, Lee Mossop, Michael McIlorum, Epalahame Lauaki. Res:
Logan Tomkins, Jack Hughes, Dom Crosby, Liam Farrell
BRADFORD: Brett Kearney; Shaun Ainscough, Michael Platt, Keith Lulia, Karl Pryce; Jarrod Sammut, Luke Gale; Jamie, Elliot Whitehead, John Bateman, Manase Manuokafoa, Heath L’Estrange, Olivier Elima. Res: Tom Burgess, Chev Walker, Adam O’Brien, Tom Olbison.
Halftime: Bradford 18-16