BRADFORD BULLS head coach James Lowes admits the mental state of his players is “worse than I imagined” as he prepares them for an inevitable relegation.
However, he insists the famous club are readied for all eventualities in their pursuit of a return to the elite.
If they fail to win at Huddersfield Giants tomorrow, Bradford will be demoted to the Championship, their only hope of salvation being a fight in the High Court to win back six points deducted for entering administration.
Even if that is successful – it is highly unlikely it will even be pursued given the significant costs involved weighed against the rewards – it will probably still not save the West Yorkshire club considering they are already 13 points adrift with seven games remaining.
Altering his players’ mental approach is uppermost in the coach’s thoughts, however, as he at least attempts to see the ailing side finish with a flourish.
“It’s probably worse than I imagined,” admitted Lowes, when asked about their mood.
“As we all know with the mind, it doesn’t happen overnight – it’s a long process to change someone’s mental approach.
“We’re working on it, though, and irrespective of what happens on Sunday we’ll continue to do that.
“We haven’t mentioned relegation at all. I didn’t see any reason to; let’s focus on the game and everything else will take care of itself.
“If we are relegated, then we’ll deal with that on Monday morning. If we get a stay of execution then we’ll go onto Wigan (next Sunday) and deal with that.”
Admittedly, plans are already in place for both possibilities, although given Bradford have won just once in nine games and have yet to prosper since Lowes took over from Francis Cummins last month, there is a heavier emphasis on the 2015 blueprint involving Championship football.
“There’s a Plan A and a Plan B,” said Lowes, with Bradford looking certain to be relegated for the first time in more than 40 years.
“We’ve started the process of looking at players for both. We just need that definite whether we’re down or not down; once we know where we are, we can decide what our plan is and what we do in the future.
“In the position we’re in, it’s highly unlikely we’re going to win all our remaining games and Salford or Hull lose all theirs. We’re half preparing ourselves for the Plan B anyway and telling players what we want to do in the future.”
For someone who led Bradford to such glory as a player, including two Grand Final wins and their memorable first World Club Challenge title when silencing the great Andrew Johns and his Newcastle Knights side, the spectre of relegation is difficult for Lowes to comprehend.
It is just over a decade since he retired, leaving his cherished club in perfect condition as treble-winners at the end of 2003.
“It is sad,” he continued. “I said to the players that although there’s not much history about the place (Tong training facility), what people will remember about the Bradford Bulls is relegation, administration and trouble.
“That’s not what the club is, though; it’s got a far greater history back to the Bradford Northern days.
“Occasionally, clubs go through cycles. Leeds Rhinos went through one and they produced some youth and have got back to the top.
“Unfortunately, we’re at the bottom of that cycle. We’ve got to rebuild and start again. We’ve got to get the club back to where it was at the start of Super League, and it won’t be easy but we’re all determined to do that.”
He confirmed that the club will retain their Super League-standard academy regardless and rightly noted that winning promotion next season will be easier than in previous years given the new format being introduced for 2015 which will see four Championship clubs have a shot.
For now, though, pride – a key word in Lowes’s vocabulary – is crucial as they take on the League Leaders’ Shield winners.
Only once relegation is confirmed will the true scale of expected departures be known.
Lowes says none of his squad has stated anything yet to him but he does expect to be “busy” come Monday if they lose tomorrow.
Luke George and Chev Walker are recalled and Danny Williams and Nathan Conroy are left out by Lowes for the trip to Huddersfield.