Jason Baitieri set for French Elite Championship return after Bradford exit; Former NRL star commits to Bulls for 2024

Ben Olawumi
Jason Baitieri, Jorge Taufua, Bradford Bulls

Jason Baitieri (left) and Jorge Taufua (right) both featured for Bradford Bulls in 2023 - Alamy

Former Super League ace Jason Baitieri has departed Championship outfit Bradford Bulls and will soon call time on his career, while another stalwart of the game in Jorge Taufua has penned a new deal for 2024 at Odsal.

34-year-old Baitieri joined the Bulls mid-season, making 11 appearances on their run to the play-off semi-finals, knocked out of the competition by Toulouse Olympique last weekend.

The Paris-born forward is the son of Tas Baitieri, an Australian who played in the NRL before coaching the French national team and at last year’s World Cup, the Italian side.

Baitieri junior’s career began in the NRL with Sydney Roosters, before he moved back to France and spent 11 years with Catalans Dragons, making over 250 appearances for the Perpignan outfit along with 22 for his country.

Before linking up with the Bulls, the veteran featured in the Elite One Championship for FC Lézignan XIII. After a short break to spend time with his family, Baitieri will return to the same division. Set to end in April 2024, the forward will pull on a shirt for the Pia Donkeys for the remainder of the current campaign before bringing the curtain down on his career.

Outgoing Jason Baitieri tips Bradford Bulls for success in near future

As Bradford announced his departure, Baitieri commented to thank everyone at the club via their website, delivering a verdict that they’re heading the right way when it comes to a Super League return.

He said: “This is an absolutely brilliant club with a brilliant team, and I have really enjoyed myself. The club is going in the right direction and success is near. 

“The last three or four months, I have seen improvements in the style of play and in certain individuals, leading the team and getting the professionalism back into Bradford.

“When I speak about professionalism, I mean guys who are working then come in to train. It’s difficult to do both, but I could see a change in the players and that was really pleasing. 

“There wasn’t a dull moment with the staff, and those who were there on a voluntary basis were there because they love the club. I don’t think a lot of clubs have those people, they are the heart and soul of the club and I want to thank everyone involved.”

Former NRL star commits to Bulls for 2024

While one stalwart bows out of Bradford, another in winger Taufua will play on at Odsal in 2024 having put pen to paper on a one-year extension.

The ex-Tonga and Samoa international made the move over to England after a decade in the NRL with Manly Sea Eagles last year, joining then-Super League outfit Wakefield Trinity.

Taufua made 14 appearances for Trinity, with 12 of those coming this season, before being released and joining Bradford back in June.

On his fourth appearance for the Bulls, a televised clash against Barrow Raiders, the flier was sent off for biting. Hit with a six-game ban in the aftermath, he missed their run in to the play-offs, though did return in time to score in the defeat at Toulouse.

His five tries in seven appearances have been enough to earn him a new deal, and new boss Eamon O’Carroll – who will take charge ahead of 2024 – is excited that the Canberra-born ace is sticking around.

He told their club website: “As a club, we are really happy to announce Jorge will be staying with us. I’ve been really impressed with him, not only in his games, but when I’ve spoken with him and certainly how he handled himself throughout his ban. 

“Having spoken with players and staff, they explained he’s had a real positive influence on the team and brought some real leadership qualities. More importantly, he adds real strike and depth in our backfield. 

“I think we can see an even better side to Jorge now he knows his future is settled, and we can get a good pre-season into him.”

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