Bradford Bulls head into the unknown in Challenge Cup

Bradford coach John Kear: Into the Challenge Cup.

After five torrid years blighted by administration, relegation and liquidation, the Bradford Bulls – under the stewardship of John Kear – are ready to rise again.

At Bootham Crescent on Sunday a ferocious wind whipped around the ground greeting the Bulls to their new life in League One. Bradford grabbed a last-gasp 22-20 victory over the York City Knights to breath life into their latest revival bid.

Despite the game been played in front of a Knights record crowd of 4,281 it still felt strange to see the former world champions competing at this level.

This coming weekend will feel even stranger for the Bulls as they enter the Challenge Cup at the third round stage.

The club’s last success in the competition came in 2003 when they beat Leeds Rhinos 22-20 at the Millennium Stadium. This weekend they will be facing Llanelli-based West Wales Raiders on Sunday at Odsal Stadium.

The glamour fixtures of yesteryear are nothing but a distant memory for the Bulls.

Games against Wests Tigers and Penrith Panthers have been replaced by encounters with Oldham and Workington following their financial meltdown.

The man tasked with rejuvenating the Bulls is former Sheffield Eagles coach Kear. The 63-year-old has lifted Challenge Cups, masterminded unlikely relegation escapes and coached in World Cups.

This weekend’s showdown is likely to rekindle Kear’s memories of his famous Challenge Cup victory with rank outsiders Sheffield Eagles in 1998.

The South Yorkshire club overcame Leigh, Castleford and Salford before facing Wigan Warriors in the final. The Warriors were overwhelming favourites and boasted a team containing Andy Farrell, Jason Robinson and Henry Paul.

Yet the Eagles emerged victorious, winning 17-8 in front of a Wembley crowd of over 60,000 fans.

Kear will be looking to imbue upon his new charges that famous underdog spirit. It seems that fans of Bradford have not wavered in their support. Over 1,000 travelled to the game against York and a healthy crowd is expected for Sunday’s encounter.

Hopefully, these fans will be rewarded for their loyalty at the end of the season.

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