The Spotlight is on… Bradford: this week the RFL hit Bradford Bulls with a 6-point deduction that leaves them 4 points adrift of London at the bottom of the Super League table.
With the threat of relegation at the end of the season, this is absolutely disasterous for Francis Cummins and his squad.
A dark cloud has lingered over Odsal for quite some time and the decision to penalise the club further has only compounded what has been a torrid couple of years for Bulls’ supporters.
In September 2013 owner Omar Khan left the club citing ill health as his decision to step down from the board. Ex-player Robbie Hunter-Paul was installed as CEO a day later before local businessman Andrew Calvert joined Ryan Whitcut, Mask Moore and Ian Watt on the new-look board.
Whitcut later stepped down before Calvert, Moore and Watt resigned due to difficulties in securing shares from Omar Khan. The situation appear to have been rectified after an agreement was reached all all three re-joined the club on December 30th.
The club’s problems extended to the playing squad as Garreth Carvell left to join Hull and Jarrod Sammut signed for Wakefield. This came after repeated announcements that players would not be sold. Bradford are now seeking legal action over Carvell’s departure, which the club consider a breach of contract.
After months of in-fighting, board resignations and player sales, Bradford have been cast adrift at the foot of the league on minus four points. With such a small squad to choose from, coach Cummins now faces an uphill task in a bid to avoid the drop.
A renewed bid from London-based businessman Richard Lamb is expected but Bradford Bulls’ supporters must be absolutely devastated.
Try of the week: I must give it to Tommy Makinson of St Helens. He is renowned for his athleticism and he demonstrated it once more with a flying touchdown in the corner against Hull on Friday night. He can squeeze into spaces other players can’t. Wonderful skill.
Class in a glass: Zak Hardaker produced an excellent all-round 80 minute performance for Leeds against Warrington on Thursday. His support play was first rate, positionally he was spot on -his tackle on Ratchford a try-saver- and he grabbed a couple of tries as well.
Leaderboard: Castleford are top after the first two games. Huddersfield remain fifth after picking up a point at home to Hull KR and Bradford’s points deduction seems them rock bottom.
1 (4) Castleford
2 (3) St Helens
3 (2) Leeds
4 (6) Salford
5 (-) Huddersfield
6 (1) Widnes
7 (-) Hull FC
8 (12) Hull KR
9 (10) Wigan
10 (9) Wakefield
11 (8) Catalan
12 (13) Warrington
13 (14) London
14 (11) Bradford
Kash out: Marwan Koukash had a bid to introduce a marquee signing rule rejected by Super League clubs this week. The millionaire Salford owner wants to stop the league’s best players from leaving for the NRL and Rugby Union by allowing clubs to spend what they like one on player, exempt from the salary cap.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, only Wigan, Warrington, Leeds and Widnes supported the idea with the majority voting against.
What I like about… Francis Cummins: Despite his side’s 6-point deduction, Francis Cummins refuses to be beaten. The Bradford Head Coach has come out fighting. He told BBC Leeds, “I don’t agree that we’re down. We could be back on an even keel next Friday. We’ve got London this week and then we go to Hull FC next week and if we can win both of them we’ll be back to zero. I’m confident that if I can keep this group together and I’m about to bring a couple of loanees in then we will have a great chance. It is a challenge I am very much up for.” Good luck to him.
Suspension: The RFL disciplinary panel were graced with the presence of another Catalan player this week as Julian Bousquet was handed a four game ban for a ‘cannonball’ tackle on Castleford’s Jordan Tansey. Bousquet is the second Catalan player to appear before the panel after Olivier Elima was given a month off last week. The RFL must keep a close eye on the techniques employed by the Dragons as there is clearly a cause for concern there.
Wakefield’s Dean Collis was handed a 2-game ban for a Grace C dangerous contact on Bradford’s Lee Gaskell and Eddy Pettybourne was given a one-game suspension for his hit on Sydney Roosters three-quarter Shawn Kenny-Dowell at the World Club Challenge.
Hull KR’s Justin Poore earned himself a one-match ban for punching against Huddersfield.
Injury update: Poor Scott Dureau just can’t catch a break. The diminutive Catalan half will miss 4 months because of an arm injury. The form Newcastle Knight played just 8 appearances last season after he overcame a brain tumour. Everyone at Spotlight wishes him every success in his recovery. Salford will be without Darrell Griffin for up to two months after sustaining a knee injury at the weekend, and Rangi Chase and Junior Sa’u will sit it out on Thursday against St Helens. Lee Gaskell is out with knee ligament damage and isn’t expect back for Bradford for 2-3 months.
Player movements: London have continued to strengthen their hastily put-together squad by signing Atelea Vea and Josh Drinkwater from St George Illawarra Dragons. Leeds Rhinos youngsters Alex Foster, Thomas Minns and James Duckworth will remain at the Barnet-based club until the remainder of the season as well.
Final thought: Commiserations to Wigan Warriors who feel to defeat against NRL Premiers Sydney Roosters. It was a fantastic test for the Super League representatives and highlights the standard our league must aim for if we are to then transfer that onto the international scene. The Roosters looked stronger throughout, had great field position early on and their percentage play resulted in three first half tries.
Wigan had a spell in the second period where they put a bit of pressure on Sydney’s line and were rewarded with a couple of neat tries, particularly the first from exciting young winger Joe Burgess. The main difference for me was Sydney’s ability to get over the line in the middle of the park where Wigan’s scores were restricted to the edges.
I hope we see more World Club Challenge matches played down under. They give us a really good marker as to where we are as a league, and the standard we should be aiming for.