Vainikolo backs Bulls to add to Rhinos woe


Bradford Bulls all-time great Lesley Vainikolo is urging his old club to turn on the style and compound the early-season misery of Leeds Rhinos when the two Engage Super League rivals meet next Thursday.
The record-breaking Kiwi giant believes the Bulls players will be primed and ready to taste one of the sweetest moments in sport – victory over Leeds at Headingley Carnegie.
The defending champions have lost five of their opening eight Engage Super League fixtures and are in the midst of a mounting injury crisis which Vainikolo hopes Bradford will take full advantage of.
“It would be great to see the Bulls go and rub salt in Leeds’s wounds with a big victory next week,” said Vainikolo, who scored 149 tries in 152 games for Bradford, including a record 36 in the 2004 Super League season.
“Bradford-Leeds derbies are just awesome, they’re the match that brings out the best in you. Some of the highlights of my Rugby League career came from playing against Leeds and if the Bradford players get the result I think they’re going to get it will be something they’ll never forget.
“It’s always sweet to beat Leeds in their own back yard and looking at them now I think they’re ready for the taking.”
Vainikolo signed off his league career with a starring role in Bradford’s 38-14 victory over Leeds at Headingley in 2007 and the Gloucester RU winger is hoping for a more convincing win next Thursday, when he will roar on the Bulls on Sky Sports from his home in the South West.
“I always watch the boys whenever they’re on TV and I have a good feeling about this Bradford team,” he said. “When I was at the club we had a great mix of players from different cultures but now they’ve gone for a mainly English squad with a few Aussies in there.
“There aren’t any Tongans or Kiwis at Bradford now and that would be a little bit sad were it not for the fact that, like us, they’re a group of players who want to play for each other.
“It was always going to take time for Steve McNamara to make the team his own but it’s good to see what he’s done.
“Happy players are usually winning players and from everything I see about Bradford they’re a happy squad. That’s one of the reasons why I think the Bulls will go well, not just next week but for the rest of the season.”
Vainikolo was a World Club Challenge winner with Bradford on three occasions – scoring a try on his debut for the Bulls against Newcastle Knights in 2002 – and it is a source of great pride for the 30-year-old that he always managed to get the better of the Australian champions.
Leeds, by contrast, have lost the last two World Club Challenges, although Vainikolo is warning people that it would be dangerous to write off the Rhinos.
“They were beaten by Manly last year and still went on to win the Grand Final and they’ll feel they can do it again despite losing to Melbourne,” he said.
“It’s far too early to say they have lost the plot. They are hurting badly at the moment and I think Bradford will add to that hurt next week but  the Rhinos are going to bounce back sooner rather than later.”