Family concerns again for Bulls star as lightning strikes twice

Ben Jeffries
Ben Jeffries
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Instead of preparing solely for tonight’s task of facing Super League leaders Wigan Warriors, Ben Jeffries has found himself telling his wife she may have to go back into full-time employment.

The Bradford Bulls stand-off is not alone; most of his colleagues have had similar family-based discussions in the build-up to this evening’s daunting fixture.

But, unfortunately, that is the real price of administration, the fate which befell Bradford on Tuesday morning.

All onfield matters are crucial to any professional sportsman but putting food on the table is ultimately the main aim.

“Our wages have been paid for June and the next lot aren’t due until mid-July,” Jeffries told the Yorkshire Post.

“We didn’t know this was coming but we had that feeling.

“On Tuesday, we were told the club has gone into administration and the next thing is it needs to try and find an investor to take the club forward.

“You have to look at things. I’m sure I’m going to have to send my wife back to work full-time.

“My little boy doesn’t go to school yet and someone has to look after him.

“Everyone has different situations and can appreciate these tough times but, hopefully, the club will give me some leeway, too.

“She can up her hours but normally works around my training so I might have to miss training if she’s asked to work.”

For Jeffries, dealing with the pressures of trying to operate with this dark cloud hanging over him is nothing new.

After all, the Australian stand-off was at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats last January when that West Yorkshire club suffered the very same trauma.

“It’s happened to me twice now in two years,” he added.

“It is hard to stay composed at a time like this but, being in the same situation last year means I’m probably a bit more composed than some of the lads.

“There’s not much we can do though apart from train hard and play.

“At Wakefield, it all went pretty quickly. John (Kear) was good back then, getting us training, and we knew there was going to be an investor coming straight in.

“We just didn’t know who as there were three mentioned.

“Here, though, no-one’s been mentioned at all at Bradford.”

The announcement that the four-times Super League champions have less than a fortnight to avoid liquidation was not a complete shock to the squad.

It had become clear in recent weeks that the cash-strapped club was struggling to find an investor to bridge a £1.2m gap made up largely of tax debts.

The players and staff were addressed at 10am on Tuesday and Jeffries added: “I thought the RFL may have been present but they were nowhere to be seen.

“They got asked to be there but said it wasn’t appropriate. I’d have thought it was but it doesn’t surprise me.”

The 31-year-old, in his second spell with the club after rejoining from Wakefield last May, has urged someone now to take on the challenge of restoring Bradford as a major power.

“The fans did great to raise £500,000 through the pledge scheme but the club still needed more so you can understand why investors wouldn’t put money in with those debts,” he said.

“A true businessman would let it go into admin’ to get rid of the debts and start afresh.

“Now that’s happened, it’s a new chance for someone to come in, invest and take Bradford forward.

“It’s a massive club with massive history and you only have to look at Wakefield to see what can happen.

“They got an investor within a week, pushed on and have now just had good news about their stadium. They are the example.”

Indeed, Trinity have prospered under the stewardship of Andrew Glover and it has to be hoped there is a similar businessman with the same sort of ambition who can propel Bradford.

The damage has been done for this season, though, ironically just as they looked capable of achieving a play-off place for the first time in four years.

“We’re in striking distance of eighth spot and in pretty good form,” admitted Jeffries, who has been integral to a mid-season resurgence .

“The play-offs are a massive target but we’re probably going to lose six points now so that puts us right behind the eight-ball again.”

Since news of Bulls’ plight was first revealed in March, they have won five and drawn once in the following 10 fixtures but will now be docked points.

“It probably means our season is over and we’ll be playing for pride more than anything else.

“But I think these (financial) problems have been building for the last four or five years.

“I don’t reckon it’s anything to do with these recent events.

“We’ve actually performed better since we hit trouble but we don’t go out thinking: ‘This could be our last game’. We just go out and play.”

Worryingly, though, tonight could be their final outing, given the adminstrator’s deadline runs out next Friday, 48 hours before the visit of London Broncos.

All they can do is think about Wigan, a side which is remarkably seeking a 14th consecutive win.

Jeffries, just one try short of a century in the British game, conceded: “Wigan are the top side. They are THE team to beat at the moment and playing really good football.

“We’ve been producing some decent stuff but we know we have to be right on our game if we’re going to win over there.

“What’s happened this week has not been the ideal way to go into such a match. Sometimes, though, when your backs are against the wall you can come up with the goods.

“Mick (Potter) and the coaching staff have sat down and worked out a way for us to go in to this game and we’ll be there to put that into practice.”

Hopefully, somebody somewhere will be doing just the same with regards creating a viable plan to take the crisis-torn club forward as well.