BRADFORD Bulls’ head coach Rohan Smith admits his surprise decision to drop talented hooker Adam O’Brien ultimately backfired.
The 23-year-old is one of the club’s leading players, but was left out for their crucial game at Featherstone Rovers.
Bradford had to avoid defeat in their final regular Championship game of the season to secure fourth spot, a place in the Qualifiers and a shot at promotion.
However, the four-time Super League champions were embarrassed 20-0 and saw Featherstone snatch the final place at their expense.
They clearly missed O’Brien’s creativity around the ruck and Smith – the Australian who took charge in mid-May – conceded: “It was a huge call. I thought going with a bigger body in Danny Addy was the best thing for us.
“It didn’t work out how we wanted it to, but I always try and make the best decisions for the club. It was really tough on Adam, but he took it as well as he could and kept on being a positive influence on the group.
“I’ve got even more respect for him as a man for the way he took the news.”
For a game of such magnitude, Bradford’s expensively-recruited squad were truly dismal against a side who outplayed them in all aspects and showed far more passion.
Smith, however, insisted they were gutted by the dire display.
“They are shattered because they’ve put a lot of work in over a long period of time and not come up with a performance,” he said, Bulls now consigned to playing the likes of Swinton Lions and Workington in the Championship Shield.
“There is disappointment in that we haven’t got where we want to be. We weren’t able to wrest the momentum that Featherstone had.
“Even when it was 18-0, we didn’t do what we set out to do to get some points and make it interesting.
“Rovers started really strongly and it was hard to stop their momentum.
“That’s how sport goes at times and Featherstone were a well-oiled machine.”