They have a genuine chance: Bradford Bulls can make Super League return

George Riley
Jordan Lilley of Bradford Bulls

Bradford Bulls have their best shot at promotion back to Super League since dropping out of the big time in 2014.

That’s the view of club legend Leon Pryce after watching Bradford record back-to-back wins over fellow promotion hopefuls Toulouse and Widnes.

It leaves the Bulls with three victories and one defeat from their first four games ahead of Monday night’s mouth-watering televised trip to Championship leaders Featherstone, for whom Pryce now works as assistant coach under St Helens legend Sean Long.

And it is Bradford of whom Featherstone are most wary right now, according to Pryce.

“This is the first time in a number of years that I think Bradford have a genuine chance of promotion and fighting for the top places,” says Pryce who played over 200 times for the Bulls in their late nineties and early noughties heyday before a second stint prior to retiring in 2017.

“The board have backed Mark Dunning heavily, they have brought in ex Super League players like Michael Lawrence and Joe Arundel. They have backed him with the signings they have got, they are on dual reg with Leeds and the team is stacked with players of high quality. It is a good challenge for us as a team and coaching staff.”

Bradford Bulls on their way back?

Bradford won four Super League titles, three World Club Challenges, three League Leaders’ Shields and two Challenge Cups in the first decade of the summer era.

But by 2012, the club was beset by financial troubles and that ultimately resulted in administration later that year.

Although they survived in Super League for another couple of seasons due to the licensing era, when relegation returned in 2014 they went down as one of the bottom two, having been handed a six-point deduction for a second administration.

It was their first relegation from the top flight in 40 years, and they came close to bouncing back straight away, losing in the Million Pound Game to Wakefield.

Further financial strife followed, with a third administration ultimately leading to the club being liquidated. They were, however, allowed to re-form and remain in the Championship albeit with a 12-point deduction. Despite starting the season well and clearing the deduction, they would ultimately be relegated to the third tier.

After earning immediate promotion back to the Championship, more turmoil followed when the club moved out of its traditional Odsal home.

Under the controversial ownership of former RFL chief executive Nigel Wood, the Bulls returned to Odsal and after a few seasons of relative stability, even if underwhelming, on the field, will hope to push towards the top of the Championship.

A real test of Bulls credentials

Monday night’s game will be a real test of Bradford’s credentials, with interest heightened following their impressive win over Toulouse.

Featherstone have other former Bulls in their ranks too ahead of the game at Post Office Road, including prop Dan Fleming, hooker Matty Wildie and full-back Brandon Pickersgill who is set for his first start of the year against his old club after injuries to Caleb Aetkins, Craig Hall and Mark Kheirallah.

“They always have that big club mentality from where they have been from the past so they are always driving that,” Wildie adds of his time at Bradford.

“They will be confident coming here and why wouldn’t they be? We will have to be at our best to beat them and are looking forward to it.”

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