James Lowes completed his move back to rugby league yesterday and immediately declared that Bradford Bulls’ season is not beyond salvation.
The 44-year-old quit as head coach of union side Leeds Carnegie to return to the league club he served with distinction during their glory years around the turn of the century.
Helping the team avoid relegation in the remaining 10 games would arguably be as big as anything he achieved during his first seven years with the club, when as a hooker he helped the Bulls to three Super League titles, two Challenge Cups and a World Club Challenge.
The Bulls of the present day, though, are in turmoil. They are nine points adrift of safety having had six points deducted for going into administation.
“This is a club that’s special to me, I have some really good memories from playing here,” said Lowes, who represented Bradford 205 times.
“I’ll have to assess the squad pretty quickly to see where we need to strengthen.
“I’m not writing this season off, no way, but it’s obviously been made into a difficult one because of off-field things.
“It will be a huge challenge, but that’s always going to be the case when you’re coming into a job because the previous coach has been sacked.”
His first challenge comes on Sunday against Warrington Wolves, who he coached for nine months from June 2008.
His only other head coaching position was in union and lasted exactly 12 months, but Lowes departs Leeds Carnegie having taken them closer to a return to the Premiership than at anytime in the previous two seasons.
“I’ve only good things to say about Leeds Carnegie and I feel I’ve learnt a lot from working in rugby union,” added Lowes.
“I’d like to try and bring in the attitude we managed to instil in the squad there last season.”
Leeds Carnegie say they will not be rushed into appointing Lowes’ successor.
Executive chairman Sir Ian McGeechan is to lead the search and will oversee the coaching staff and pre-season arangements in the meantime.
Carnegie forwards coach Tommy McGee will be a name at the top of McGeechan’s list.
The 34-year-old former Scotland A prop has been credited with shoring up Leeds’s set-piece since rejoining the club he played for – initially in a consultancy capacity – 18 months ago.
He has also developed a strong reputation as a head coach during spells at Wharfedale and with the Leeds Metropolitan University team.