Bradford failed to reach the Super League Grand Final for the first time in 5 years in 2006, and they now seem to be a team in decline with their period of success perhaps coming to an end.
The mid season departure of Brian Noble and Stuart Fielden to Wigan coincided with a blip in form for the Bulls, and although they bounced back only to be knocked out in the playoffs by Hull, they were not the same side from the year before, when they crushed Hull 70-4 at the same stage.
The arrival of David Solomona, whom they coveted for months, will no doubt prove to be a big boost to their pack but the subsequent departure of up and coming youngster Brett Ferres brings up the question about Bradford’s commitment to young, British players, with a heavy reliance on Kiwis and Kolpak players in their squad.
Joining Solomona in arriving at the Grattan Stadium is Parramatta’s Glenn Morrison and Chris Feather from Leeds. Both will add something to the pack, but hardly in the same calibre as Fielden, Paul Johnson and Jamie Peacock, who have all now left in the past 18 months
Perhaps their most promising signing is that of Castleford full back Michael Platt, who will be looking to impress following the departure of Michael Withers. But with James Evans the only other back arriving at the club, Bradford look short in the three quarters thanks to the retirement of Marcus Bai and the defection to Rugby Union of Karl Pryce.
There are seemingly plenty of gaps in the Bradford squad, and with no signs of this being rectified any time soon, the Bulls could be victims of the ever increasing standard of Super League. If they have a difficult start to the season, it will be hard for them to bounce back.
If the team can stick together and get the best out of their star men, the Bulls can still challenge at the top. They have big game players who have done this many a time before. But when comparing their squad on paper to other teams in Super League, playoff qualification might just be the best Bradford can hope for.
Prediction: 6th – scraping a play-off spot as the Bulls become victims of Warrington’s ever increasing promise and Wigan’s revival, ironically under former Bradford boss Brian Noble.