Smith return could go either way

The news that Brian Smith, widely seen as a ‘coaching guru’, will be joining the coaching team at Bradford Bulls will be seen as a stroke of genius by the directors at Odsal, especially in the light of the Bulls’ capitulation in the Powergen Challenge Cup against St Helens. The Bradford club have wobbled slightly since Brian Noble decided to take up the Wigan challenge.

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Smith is a top coach, there can be no doubt about it, and his return to the club will play a part in helping the club in the short term. But, more importantly, new head coach Steve McNamara will learn a great deal from the ex-Bradford boss, which will stand him in good stead for the future.

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McNamara has the potential to be a top coach, but at the moment it could be argued that he lacks the experience to take charge of a big engage Super League club – he admitted as much himself when turning down the Hull job earlier in the year. The arrival of Brian Smith will aid McNamara’s development as a coach.

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On the other hand, he move could be seen as something of a dent in McNamara’s confidence. The Bradford directors were happy to leave him in charge of the club after Noble’s departure, but now seem to be saying, “You’re not good enough after all”.

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Smith’s input could actually prove detrimental to McNamara’s development as a coach, when the more experienced man would impose his image and his ideas on the team, while the present coach’s input could be kept at a minimum.

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Last season, the Bulls players pointed out that McNamara’s input was a major factor in their Grand Final win, so in would only damage the club to see the young coach shunted to one side by Smith.

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It remains to be seen whether this decision will be beneficial or harmful to both McNamara and the club as a whole. In either case, it will be interesting to see how the input of Brian Smith alters what is happening at Odsal.

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World Cup Excitement

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The European World Cup qualifiers have been going well so far, and the next fixture sees Georgia take on Holland at the Locomotiv Stadium in Tblisi this Friday, with the game being screened live on Georgian television.

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The match will be played on ‘Georgia Day’, a national bank holiday that celebrates the county’s independence from Russia, and officials are hoping for a crowd of more than 15,000. If the Georgians achieve this it will be a remarkable feat, especially considering that Great Britain’s next Test match is being held in a ground that holds only 17,500.

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It’s great to see the rugby league development that is being made across Europe. Countries like Georgia, Holland, Serbia, Italy, Greece – and now Norway – are the kind that at one time you would never have expected to see having anything to do with ‘the M62 game’.

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In an age of franchises, mergers and Les Catalans Dragons, it’s nice to see a bit of expansion and development isn’t it?

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Hock Returns

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The eyes of British rugby league will be trained on the JJB Stadium this week, and not just because of another crunch derby between Wigan Warriors and St Helens. No, it’s because of the return of Gareth Hock, who was the shock selection in Brian Noble’s provisional Great Britain squad last month.

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Hock has been out for fifteen months with injury, and his inclusion in the squad surprised most people within the game. He began his come-back against Salford City Reds in the Challenge Cup on Friday night, playing much of the first half but not managing to prevent the Warriors from suffering a 16-4 defeat.

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But Hock did not perform too badly, and will be looking to make his mark in this derby game and prove the doubters wrong.

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Who knows, he may even inspire a much-needed win for the relegation threatened Wigan side.  

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