Breather for Bulls stars ahead of showdown

Lee Gaskell.
Lee Gaskell.
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Bradford Bulls head coach James Lowes insists he is not being “disrespectful” to Championship rivals Halifax by fielding a weakened team this afternoon.

He has left out the likes of Australian Adrian Purtell – man-of-the-match playing stand-off in last week’s crucial win at Leigh – hooker Adam O’Brien plus second-rows Tom Olbison and Dale Ferguson for today’s final Qualifiers game at Odsal.

Bradford are already certain to play Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in next Saturday’s ‘Million-Pound Game’ with the victor then earning promotion to Super League.

Lowes admitted: “I’ve made some big changes for Halifax. We’ve got quite a few with little knocks and bumps.

“Jake (Mullaney) went off with a concussion, we had a few players going into Leigh with some niggles, and it’s a good opportunity to rest those lads up.

“We’re going to have a good side out and I’m going to try not to be disrespectful to the game or to Halifax, but we’ve got a massively important game coming up and I have to prioritise a little bit.

“I’ve said to the boys when we spoke about team selection that just because they’re not in this week doesn’t guarantee what will happen next Saturday.

“Similarly, the guys who come in this week get a chance to stake a claim for a spot in the side next weekend.

“If someone comes in and impresses on Saturday then I’ve no problem with throwing them in.”

Lowes does hope to have full-back Mullaney and stand-off Lee Gaskell back for that climactic Wakefield contest.

Gaskell, of course, has not played since bruising his kidneys in the opening Qualifiers fixture, a heavy defeat at Trinity last month.

“It’s down to him; I don’t know how much pain he’s in so he’s got to be the one to make the call,” said Lowes, about the Championship player of the year. “It was literally a last-minute decision last week; it wasn’t right to play him.

“All I ask him to do is make a right decision for the team, and if he does that like he did then (at Leigh) that’s what matters.”

Meanwhile, the Bradford coach is unconcerned where they play next week.

Wakefield currently have home advantage sitting in fourth but they only lead Bulls by points difference and head to Sheffield tomorrow.

“It’s a big one-off game, and it’s irrelevant to us where it is,” said Lowes.

“Let other people worry about that – we’re in the game and that’s all that matters.”