WITH just eight days to go until their Championship season kicks off, captain Leon Pryce admits revived Bradford Bulls “won’t be ready”.
Bradford travel to Hull KR next Sunday for a meeting of two former Super League clubs, but rather than aiming for a top-flight return, their focus is firmly on avoiding relegation to League One.
Bradford will begin the new season on minus 12 points, a punishment imposed by the Rugby Football League after the original club ceased trading at the start of this month.
That handicap will make anything other than survival an impossibility and Pryce acknowledges Bradford are already playing catch-up with a squad put together at the 11th hour.
“We have got a lot of work to do,” admitted the 35-year-old veteran.
“We won’t be ready; we are going to be a little bit behind, given the pre-season we’ve had, but we are going to have to catch up.
“It is going to be tough, but we will take it game by game and try and make sure we stay in the Championship and then build from there.”
The challenge is daunting, but Pryce believes that in former Manly Sea Eagles player and coach Geoff Toovey, new owners Graham Lowe and Andrew Chalmers have appointed the right man to take Bradford forward. Toovey, who arrived in this country on Thursday, is one of the most high-profile appointments made by a British club in recent seasons and Pryce enthused: “He’s a big name and a proven winner.
“His record speaks for itself, as a player and a coach. He’s a World Club Challenge winner, he has won the competition in Australia and I am really excited to work under him.”
Toovey will watch his new charges in action for the first time tomorrow, in a pre-season game at Keighley Cougars. The season-opener at Hull KR will see him go head-to-head with Tim Sheens who had a six-year spell as coach of Australia before moving to Salford in 2015 and will also be taking charge of his new team for the first time.
Two of Australia’s biggest-name coaches plying their trade in the English second tier would have seemed unthinkable a few years ago, but Pryce believes the presence of characters of Sheens’s and Toovey’s calibre can only benefit the game here.
“We need as many good coaches as we can,” he said. “We can only learn off these guys, so it is good for the comp’ over here.”
The showdown with Hull KR will be Pryce’s first competitive match for Bradford for 12 years. His six-year initial spell at his hometown club yielded 205 appearances, three Super League Grand Final wins and a Challenge Cup medal.
He went on to win league and cup titles with St Helens before spells at Catalans Dragons and Hull FC and rejoined the old Bulls last autumn. Despite becoming a free-agent when the club closed, he insisted he never considered moving elsewhere.
Pryce was the first confirmed member of the new squad and he insisted: “It wasn’t a tough decision at all.
“The reason I have signed for Bradford is because I am from Bradford and I’ve always wanted to come back here. I started my career here, I was a fan here and a ball boy here.
“For me it was a very, very easy decision. I am a proud Bradfordian and even though I’ve played for other clubs I have always had my house here.
“I have always lived here and my wife’s family is from here. My children were born in Bradford and my mum was born here.
“My whole family are Bradford, so I am proud to be back.”
Pryce’s previous spell as a Bradford player ended on an incredible high at Old Trafford in October, 2005, when he scored a try and collected the Harry Sunderland Trophy as man of the match in Bulls’ Grand Final win over Leeds Rhinos.
That is a world away from the state the club is in now, but asked if he could imagine the glory days ever returning to Odsal Pryce admitted: “I haven’t got a crystal ball, I don’t know.
“Everybody would like that to happen, but we have got to start properly now and lay the foundations.
“When you are building a house you have to get proper footings and proper foundations.
“That’s where we’re at now. We are down to bare rubble so let’s build those foundations and make sure we’ve got a club that can grow again.
“We have to have a long-term plan.
“We’re not Super League, we’ve got a great Super League pedigree and a great history of winning trophies, World Club Challenges, Super Leagues and Challenge Cups, but that now has been put to one side.
“We are now a Championship team that’s looking to get back to the highs, but we have got to start from the bottom.”