Bradford Bulls adopt hybrid system in bid to bridge gap to Super League

AS Betfred Super League begins tonight, Bradford Bulls are one of many Championship clubs stepping up their preparations to try and be at that same start line in 12 months’ time.

Pointing the way: Veteran coach John Kear has come up with a new way to prepare his players for the demands of the Championship and what Bradford Bulls hope will eventually be Super League. (Picture: SWPix.com)

However, they are doing things a little differently.

Some clubs are full-time operations in the second-tier – such as Toulouse Olympique and London Broncos – and most are semi-professional, but Bradford continue to use a ‘hybrid’ approach.

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With their Championship campaign opening against Sheffield Eagles on Sunday week, Bulls have made no secret of their desire to return to the top level for the first time since 2014.

Talking to The Yorkshire Post, Kear explained how their training system works.

“We’ve got 40 per cent of our players who are full-time and 60 per cent part-time,” he said.

“What it allows us to do is keep systems and structures in place for the full-time players, which obviously applies should we get into Super League, so there is a bit of prep’ for that.

“But it also allows us not to miss out on any quality part-time players because some players at this level don’t want to go full-time as they have pretty good jobs.

John Kear, Bradford Bulls head coach ( Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

“It allows us to get the best of both worlds and what happens is, the full-time players do put the extra hours in as they can come in during the day, but we do have quite a bit of crossover where they mix with part-time.

“It is time-consuming for the staff. But I just feel you have got to do this, just as I feel you have got to keep an academy. We’re maintaining both strands of those requirements, I believe, for being full-time in Super League.”

Bradford further strengthened their squad this week with the signing of Wales international Ben Evans after the former Warrington Wolves prop gained a release from the final year of his contract at Toulouse.

He has come straight into their routine and Kear has detailed how the ‘hybrid’ system works.

Ben Evans of Toulouse Olympique is joining Bradfird Bulls (Picture: Ash Allen/SWPix.com)

“Before Covid, in a playing week, the full-timers would come in on Monday during the afternoon and do their rehab,” said the former Wakefield Trinity and Hull FC chief.

“They’d then look at their individual videos with a member of the coaching staff.

“The part-time players would be sent a rehab programme to do at home in their own time and there wouldn’t be the inconvenience of them travelling in.

“On Tuesday, the full-timers would come in just after lunch and do some extra skills work, unit practice as well before they did their weights. Then they would meet on the field with the part-timers and they would train together for a field session for approximately an hour and a half.

Back at Bradford Bulls - Nigel Wood (Picture: SWPix.com)

“After the field session, the part-timers would then do their weights. Wednesday any full timers who need extras with regards fitness, skills or treatments would come in and obviously the part-timers have that day off.

“Thursday would be same as Tuesday, Friday is everybody’s day off and then Saturday would be a team run with Sunday game day. It’s worked well.

“The reason we’re committed to this format is so the club has good prep’ for Super League; so we’re not clicking from a part-time to full-time squad, changing the complete group.

“It’d be more evolution than revolution.”

Off the field, as well as on it, Bradford are now well-set to make that promotion push, even if it does not materialise in 2021.

Just as Kear is one of the sport’s most experienced coaches, they have one of its most experienced administrators, too, in Nigel Wood.

An impressive record shows he delivered profits in each of his 12 years as RFL chief executive, helped secure a record-breaking broadcast deal with Sky Sports and was also chairman of the successful 2013 World Cup.

Wood and his family bought a major stake in Bradford in October 2019 and, with his commitments as International Rugby League’s chief executive finishing late last year, he is now set to increase his hands-on involvement.

Although the Bulls have suffered from financial difficulties in previous regimes, he is at last bringing stability and helping restore trust in the club, so 2021 should be an interesting year.

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