Diskin in danger of losing grip on those glory days

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As a quadruple Grand Final winner, Matt Diskin knows all about the jubilation and highs play-off football can yield.

The majority of his Bradford Bulls team-mates, however, have yet to even experience a single, paltry top-eight contest given the club’s barren run in recent years.

The erstwhile Super League champions – regular Old Trafford foes when Diskin was in his pomp with Leeds Rhinos – have missed out on the play-offs for the last four years.

If they succumb at Castleford Tigers tomorrow that troubling sequence will stretch to five.

It seems inconceivable for a side that actually won four of the first 10 titles in Super League, featuring in six Grand Finals and lifting three World Club Challenges before a rot set in from 2006 onwards.

However, that is the situation in which unfortunate Bradford currently find themselves.

To rescue this campaign and extend their season would be a notable feat, especially given they were actually on the brink of extinction only last summer.

They may have blown their chances last Sunday, though, when Francis Cummins’s side allowed an 18-4 interval lead to erode at home to struggling Catalan and eventually lost 23-22.

It means they are six points adrift of eighth-placed Hull KR but with time running out given only three regular rounds remain.

“It was heart-breaking,” co-captain Diskin told the Yorkshire Post.

“To be leading like that and then fall just short was real tough.

“It’s been the same issue we’ve had all year – a lack of composure more than anything.

“Catalan have a big pack too and they just steamrolled us in the second half. But we’ve still got three games left and we have to put everything into each and every one.

“We’re still reliant on a couple of external factors, but all we can do is concentrate on us and hopefully put ourselves in the mix.”

For Dewsbury-born Diskin, the 31-year-old hooker who has savoured so many epic occasions, their struggles are all the more galling knowing his Bradford team-mates are agonisingly close to making that vital breakthrough.

“I’ve been lucky in my career to have played in some great teams and experienced that play-off process all the way through,” he said, his man-of-the-match display at Old Trafford in 2004 ironically denying Bradford Grand Final glory while delivering Leeds’ first title in more than 30 years.

“I know what that success tastes like. These last few years, we’re just falling short of that level at Bradford but we’re not far off.

“I’m sure we will be back challenging and I’m proud of what we’re building towards.

“But once people experience that little bit of success it becomes infectious.

“We have a very talented group of people here and we just need to start believing in each other a little bit more. Once we do that it will come.”

Victory at Wheldon Road is paramount to keeping their faint hopes alive.

Bradford may have prospered 38-12 when the sides last met at Odsal in February but so much has changed since then, not least the fact that Castleford have been taken over by Diskin’s astute former Leeds coach Daryl Powell.

Yet their West Yorkshire hosts remain a curious bunch, clearly able to score points almost at will, but still struggling for resolve in their defensive line.

Castleford – adrift in 12th spot – defeated Widnes 42-38 last Sunday but it was only their first win in four games and in each of those previous defeats they conceded 40 points or more.

“When you look at the score against Widnes it was another entertaining game with a lot of points conceded again,” admitted Diskin, who moved to Odsal after celebrating his testimonial at Headingley in 2010 and recently signed a new one-year extension.

“But Cas are much better under Daryl Powell. He’s a good coach who I was fortunate to have the experience of working with earlier in my career.

“I know what sort of mentality and values he will have instilled in them. They should have picked up more points than they have and they have some real strike players in their side. Cas’ are a tough team to play against, particularly at home.

“But, apart from the Huddersfield match at Magic Weekend, we have competed in every game ourselves this season and been in with a chance of winning.

“A couple of bouncing balls here and there and we could be in a totally different position.”

Their hopes took a knock when Australian hooker Heath L’Estrange, Diskin’s co-captain, injured his knee against Catalan and needed surgery which keeps him out for the season.

“It is bad news,” he admitted. “Heath is a fantastic player and to lose that quality from the team will be hard on us.

“But Adam O’Brien – who is the future of the club going forward – will hopefully get a shot.”

Castleford have a doubt over over hooker Daryl Clark (ankle), while Powell must decide whether to recall Jordan Tansey or stick with captain Michael Shenton at full-back.

Bradford have centre or second rower Matty Blythe back from a three-match absence with a knee injury.