Dave Craven: List of top Bulls who moved on can offer hope to their fans

Former Bradford Bulls star Sam Burgess scores a try for England against New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final last year.
Former Bradford Bulls star Sam Burgess scores a try for England against New Zealand in the World Cup semi-final last year.
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I’M not a massive fan of lists. If I’ve written one it generally means I’ve got a lot to do.

What makes it worse in my household is that, just as I’ve crossed off most of the ‘jobs’ and got a smidgen of satisfaction by seeing them struck through, the other half will start a whole, new list rather than simply add to the original.

One list I always enjoyed formulating as a child, however, was the all-prevalent team list.

Now, this could be any team. Best Arsenal side over the last five years? Why not? Best overseas Premier League side? Definitely. Combined Leeds and Wigan RL side of the late Eighties/early Nineties? Intriguing, no doubt.

I was reminded twice this week of the endless hours whiled away at school. Firstly, a mate – a school teacher - who randomly offered up by text an ‘England Football Dream Team In Our Time’. I only had a cursory glance but could tell he was so, so wrong with a number of selections. I’ll correct him later.

But then Jamie Peacock reminded me also of the potential to formulate such a side when it comes to the players who, during the Super League era, have progressed through Bradford Bulls’ academy ranks only to go on and grace other clubs elsewhere.

There’s the Leeds Rhinos star himself, for a start, who has won five further Grand Finals with them, captained England and Great Britain with such distinction, and earned an MBE for services to the sport.

But then just look at some of Peacock’s former Odsal team-mates in that great vintage around the turn of the millennium.

We’ve Stuart Fielden, who broke the world record transfer fee when he joined Wigan for £440,000 in 2006, Leon Pryce, who won five trophies in five years at St Helens, and Paul Deacon, who savoured an Indian summer with Wigan after becoming Bradford’s greatest points scorer.

Admittedly, the prolific scrum-half did start at Oldham before switching to Bulls as an 18-year-old but he played in the Academy at Odsal.

More recently, there is the global superstar Sam Burgess, who has become an icon in the NRL with South Sydney and will shortly return to Bath in order to chance his arm with England RU and, it would be no surprise, the British Lions in 2017.

Huddersfield Giants’ vice-captain and England second-row Brett Ferres progressed through the same Academy side as Burgess while Huddersfield prop Craig Kopczak, the Wales captain, also came from that crop.

Warrington Wolves stand-off Chris Bridge started out at Bradford and is now pushing for an England recall while let’s not forget his club-mate and ex-England centre Ryan Atkins was in the Bulls’ youth ranks without ever playing Super League there.

George Burgess is the same in that regard and is thriving now for Souths and England while his twin Tom graduated with Bradford before heading to Oz.

Jamie Langley does not even get in this mythical line-up such is the plethora of talent but, as sad as Bradford’s relegation is, this list serves as a reminder of what could occur in the future.

Hopefully, though, the club will then be in a position to hold onto its stars too.

Bulls Academy graduates XIII: Bridge; Reardon, Atkins, Wardle, K Pryce; L Pryce, Deacon; Fielden, A Smith, Peacock, Ferres, Bateman, S Burgess. Substitutes: Sykes, Whitehead, T Burgess, G Burgess.