JAMES DONALDSON fully realises the part his malfunctioning team-mates have played in the downfall of sacked Bradford Bulls coach Francis Cummins and accepts they must respond with victory tonight.
Cummins and assistant Lee St Hilaire were dismissed on Monday after a string of poor results left the famous club entrenched in the relegation mire.
Sunday’s wretched 46-18 loss at struggling Salford Red Devils saw them pay the price but, ahead of this evening’s visit from Hull KR, Donaldson accepts the misfiring squad are to blame.
“It was a massive shock,” said the loose forward, about hearing the news of Cummins’s dismissal.
“I didn’t expect it coming and I think Franny has done the best he could with what he’s got.
“He’s been great in the way he’s held this team together through some really tough times during these last few years.
“We know we’ve let him down and we do feel that. We know we owe a big performance this week.
“We’ve been trying to come up with a performance these last few weeks and it’s just not happened. We need a massive one Friday.”
Captain Matt Diskin has taken temporary charge as Bradford seek a long-term replacement for Cummins, who had been in the main role since being promoted from his position as Mick Potter’s assistant at the end of 2011.
Donaldson, one of the few Bradford players to deliver consistently this season, said: “It has been a tough week but I think Disko has gone about the situation really well in the way he’s prepared the team. I know he might not want the job forever and it is a strange situation for him.
“You respect your coach and I’ve respect for Disko but it can’t have been easy for him to step up into this role he’s not used to.
“He’s been outstanding after the week we’ve had, though, and got us ready for Hull KR.”
Bradford, who endured administration twice during Cummins’s reign, have won just two of their last 13 league games to leave them eight points adrift of safety with 11 rounds to go.
They are bolstered by the return of on-loan Hull FC forward Jay Pitts from suspension tonight although it remains unclear whether full-back Brett Kearney is fit enough to resume following his fractured thumb.
Donaldson, 22, admits the squad are only just realising how grim their situation really is.
“We haven’t been playing to our potential this year and we can’t just carry on thinking things are going to be all right,” he said.
“They won’t be. We’re playing for our careers. Some people are on long contracts here and they don’t know what to do.
“They need to make an impression – we all do – to get ourselves in the best possible position for what lies ahead. One win will get us some momentum and that’s what we need right now.”
Bradford suffered defeat during their previous game at Hull KR in March having lost hooker Diskin and prop Adam Sidlow to injuries in the opening quarter-of-an-hour.
It was the sort of cursed luck Cummins endured for much of his time at Odsal and Donaldson added: “It was 16-0 but we seemed to just defend our line for the full game after losing those two players to injury. Hopefully, it will be a different game this time and more competitive.
“Rovers have been up and down this year so hopefully we can turn up and deliver.”
Meanwhile, he believes Cummins – who worked for three months unpaid when made redundant as assistant two years ago – will quickly bounce back from this week’s disappointment.
“The players have spoken to Franny individually and thanked him for what he’s done,” said the Cumbrian, who made his Bradford debut in 2009.
“He’ll be back – and in Super League – in no time as he’s a great coach. He’s really helped me out a lot in these last few years when I had some injuries and did think I might not have a club.
“Franny showed faith in me and got me to this point now where I’m starting each week.”
Donaldson’s team-mate Chev Walker reiterated his viewpoint on the sorry saga with the club still debating whether to take legal action after their appeal against a six-point deduction for entering administration failed last week.
“Sadly we are used to things going against us but we’re not rolling over and calling it quits,” said the ex-Great Britain centre, who spent three years at Hull KR before moving to Odsal in 2011.
“Obviously confidence is shot at the minute. Lee and Franny were a big part of our group and held us together for so long so it’s sad, but as a group we owe it to them and to ourselves to try and get some performances.
“We are trying to gain something to give us that little bit of confidence to move forward and credit to Disko; he has put his hand up, his first day as coach was good and he delivered his messages and his game plan over to us really well.”