Bradford Bulls v York City Knights: Flanagan dreams of helping Bulls back into Super League

WHEN George Flanagan first started life at Bradford Bulls, he was a teenager coming through the ranks for the World Club champions with peers including Sam Burgess.

hometown club: Hooker George Flanagan is happy to be back playing for Bradford after arriving from Hunslet. Picture: Tom Pearson

Matters are certainly a little different now for him and his hometown club but the skilful hooker is loving life at Odsal regardless.

Admittedly, there was heartache when he was cut by Bradford having failed to make a Super League appearance for the team he has always supported.

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But now, at the age of 31 and after a decade proving himself as one of the best 9s outside of the top-flight, he is hoping to play his part in their eventual recovery.

The League 1 leaders host second-placed York City Knights tomorrow having won 16 of their 17 games since being relegated from the Championship. It is a fascinating contest – James Ford’s exciting York side have just one fewer victories – with a large crowd expected.

Could Flanagan, bought by Bradford from League 1 Hunslet just one game into this campaign, one day play for them in Super League after all?

“That would be the dream,” he told The Yorkshire Post, whilst knowing securing promotion back into the Championship is the crucial first step.

“I can honestly say, for all the troubles the club has had over the last five years or so, it is in a really strong, stable position now.

“The coaching staff are great. I played under John Kear at Batley and we got to the 2013 Grand Final with him. Him being here was a big selling point for me.

“But Leigh Beattie, too, is great. He was kit man when I was in the Academy and has worked his way up as well.

“I am loving it here and it should be a cracking game against York.

“Hopefully I’ve still got a few years left – and I can help Bulls get back into the big time,” he added.

It would be a brilliant story if that did eventually play out and Flanagan – who also featured with Dewsbury Rams and Featherstone Rovers before his five year stint at Hunslet – came full circle.

“I got scouted by Bulls when I was 13 and went through the scholarship before playing Under 16s, 18s and then Reserve Grade,” he recalled. “It was a great time; Bradford was one of the biggest clubs in Super League and, in that reserve side, there was great players.

“Brett Ferres was captain and a lot of others went on to play Super League like Sam (Burgess), Karl Pryce, Craig Kopczak, Matt James and Dave Halley.

“Elliott Whitehead was a bit younger and there was Duane Straugheir, who’s now Hunslet captain, as well as Keegan Hirst and Luke Menzies who has made it big – he’s a WWE wrestler!

“My first coach up there was Phil Veivers, then Basil Richards.

“Nobby (Brian Noble) was first-team coach and he had a big impact on me. James Lowes – my idol – was up there at times, too, which was great for me with them both being part of the hooker’s union.

“Sometimes I do feel disappointed that I didn’t quite make it to that highest level. But I’ve had a great career anyway and really enjoyed it so I can’t complain.

“And I’m back here.”

Flanagan, whose pace around the ruck is a constant cause of distress for opponents, knows the threat York pose.

“I’m a rugby geek; I watch everything and do keep a close eye on what’s going on,” Flanagan said.

“York are going well and Fordy has done a great job with them.

“They have some quality players who have real experience like Ben Cockayne and Graeme Horne while Connor Robinson is a great half.

“They are where they are on merit, play really good rugby and it should be a cracking fixture.

“For us, the main goal was always to get promoted. We want to finish top and get automatic promotion.

“We’re being very professional and haven’t looked too far ahead; we’ve just been taking each game as it comes but, in all honesty, we know how big this two points is on Sunday.

“If we win we’d be four points ahead of York with eight games to go; that’s no guarantee of top spot but, if we carry on playing like we have, it’d be a massive step,” he added.