THERE’S AN element of irony to the fact a qualified accountant has been appointed as coach of the new Bradford Bulls.
Geoff Toovey, a former Australian Test half-back who coached Manly Sea Eagles in the NRL, is the man charged with restoring the club’s on-field fortunes after years of decline.
That went hand in hand with a series of financial crises which led to the club being placed in administration three times in five years before eventually ceasing trading earlier this month.
New Zealanders Graham Lowe and Andrew Chalmers have launched a new club, which will take the former outfit’s place in the Kingstone Press Championship, beginning against Hull KR on February 5 with a 12-point deduction.
There will be as much focus on how Bradford perform away from the pitch as on it and Toovey’s background with figures will mean he is well-placed to keep an eye on both sides of the business. Lowe has confirmed Jas Atwhal as chairman with Leon Pryce becoming club captain and stressed the coach, who he described as a “fantastic and exciting” appointment, will focus solely on the rugby side.
He worked with the 47-year-old at the Manly club in Sydney and said: “He quickly became one of my dearest friends and one of the greatest players I ever coached.
“Everybody is going to love Geoff.
“He is a very approachable guy and a proud person.
“He is not coming here to muck around and it’s an exciting time for the club, but more importantly for the players.
“Players, particularly the younger players, will thrive under his coaching.”
Lowe claimed: “He is a fantastic coach and a proven coach.
“He is an uncompromising coach and you just wonder what might happen in the future because he is such a good leader.
“He has the respect of the game internationally and he’s as tough a person as you will ever meet in life.
“He is up for a challenge all the time and I can’t wait for him to get here.
“He will do everyone proud and he will always give his best. He is a players’ coach.”
In a statement, Toovey, who is due to arrive next week, said: “I’d like to thank Andrew Chalmers and Graham Lowe for offering me this opportunity to come over to the UK and coach the Bulls.
“I understand how tough it has been for everyone attached to the club, but this is our time now to turn things around and get Bradford back to where they belong – playing entertaining rugby league.
“I’m really excited about this role and can’t wait to start getting things together at the Bulls.”
Lowe, a former Wigan coach, took training earlier this week, but Pryce will be in charge of the team when they face Huddersfield Giants in Luke Robinson’s testimonial tomorrow.
Lowe said a total of 26 players have been signed on, though only Pryce has been named so far.
The owners have confirmed the club will continue to be known as Bradford Bulls.
Describing the scale of the task facing the new club, Chalmers said: “It’s like riding a bicycle down a hill backwards, without handlebars and no brakes and having to change both wheels.
“It may sound impossible, but it’s all do-able.”
Chalmers admitted the first year will be a “challenge” and he said: “Our focus is on making sure we engage all the stakeholders in getting them back in to support us and that includes the fans, especially.”
Despite it playing in the same competition, at the same venue and under the same name as the previous unit – and with, it is expected, some of the same players – Rugby Football League chief operating officer Ralph Rimmer stressed the club is an entirely new operation.
Rimmer said: “The administrator tried to sell the club out of administration and didn’t get a bid that was acceptable.
“Therefore once that was established the administrator realised there was no future for that particular company, everybody was made redundant and the liquidation process was activated.
“That is in train at the moment and the old company will be dead and buried.
“These people literally buy the assets from the administrator – that’s chairs, tables, stuff from the gym and the IP [intellectual property].
“They can choose to use that IP or not, they could have called it Bradford whatever they wanted.
“They made a decision once the assets were bought the best way forward was to call it Bradford Bulls again. That was their decision; the old company will be liquidated next week, I would imagine and this is a new start-up.”