Pryce has fingers crossed for ideal birthday present

Karl Pryce
Karl Pryce
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NOWadays, Bradford Bulls’ tested players know better than to get their hopes up too soon.

They saw the financially-troubled club somehow reach £500,000 to stave off going bust only to be told much more was still needed for survival.

They heard rumours a buyer would come in to rescue them only to then fall into administration.

And no-one expected the bombshell news 16 of their off-field colleagues would be instantly made redundant.

You can understand, then, that none of them are yet performing cartwheels after the ABC consortium yesterday made a definite bid to administrator Brendan Guilfoyle.

It is just a little too early to breathe easily again.

However, undeniably, it is a real fillip for the squad and everyone involved at the club as they prepare for tonight’s trip to Leeds Rhinos.

“There was a rumour the other day that they’d pulled out altogether,” winger Karl Pryce told the Yorkshire Post.

“There was nothing in the press but we’d heard that so, obviously, it’s good to know that it was just hearsay and this bid is finally in there now.

“It takes a little bit of weight off everyones’ shoulders knowing that progress is being made.

“We know there is a long way to go yet to get it over the line.

“But, hopefully, the RFL will approve it and it’s great to know that businesses here in Bradford are keeping an eye on the Bulls.”

It is credit to the club’s players that they have managed to ignore all the uncertainty and disruption to not only maintain some form but enhance it.

They have lost just once in their last five outings and are now targeting a fourth successive win.

Indeed, amid all the off-field drama, it has been easy to lose sight of the fact if Bradford prosper tonight they will replace Leeds in fifth place.

They are on course for their best finish since 2008, although the RFL board of directors could immediately jeopardise that if, as expected, they today decide on a six-point deduction for the Bulls breaking insolvency regulations.

Pryce said: “Whatever points they take off us, we’re still in the hunt for the top eight.

“We’re playing some good stuff at the minute and it seems like what’s gone on has kind of relaxed us a bit on the field.

“We’re going out there playing with a smile on our face.

“Hopefully, we can kick on until the end of the season and our team spirit is second to none. It’s the best I’ve ever been involved in.”

For Pryce, in his second spell at his home-town club, there would be no better way to keep the momentum going than inflicting defeat on their old rivals.

He scored a hat-trick against Leeds when Bradford grabbed a 26-24 win at Headingley in 2006 and has enjoyed some notable performances against them during his career.

Leeds were euphoric after reaching the Challenge Cup final following Saturday’s epic win over Wigan Warriors but Pryce does not believe that will see them napping now.

“Is there ever a good time to play Leeds?” he questioned.

“They are a top side. They had a tough game against Wigan and played well but I can’t see them wanting to take their foot off the gas in the league.

“They have a lot of ground to make up in the league and, knowing their players pretty well, they won’t want to just roll over just because they’ve got to a final. But it’s the biggest game of the season for a Bradford lad to play against Leeds.

“It’s always pretty special and I’m looking forward to it.”

The last fixture between them saw Rhinos’ scrum-half Danny McGuire score five tries as they defeated Bradford 37-22 at Magic Weekend in May.

Pryce recalled: “He is the support king. That’s what he’s known for and we knew before the game he’d do it.

“That’s the kind of player Danny is – backing up anything and finishing tries off.

“We’ve got to look after him on Friday but you’ve got Rob Burrow flying around, too, and obviously Kevin Sinfield who, at the minute, is in top-class form picking up man of the matches left, right and centre.

“If we keep those quiet, we’ve got half a chance of getting two points.”

Bradford, meanwhile, are without John Bateman, the gifted back-row who yesterday flew to Australia as England Academy captain.

He has been in sparkling form this year, prompting Warrington Wolves to make an unsuccessful £100,000 bid for his services.

“He’s 18 years old but playing well above his age,” admitted Pryce.

“He’s a brilliant talent and we’re going to miss him but we’ve got the squad to try and fill in and cover his place.”

However, Bateman’s scheduled trip brought back painful memories for Pryce, who held hopes of partaking in a similar tour when he was a teenager first making his mark at Odsal.

“I was in the England Academy squad in 2004 when the likes of James Graham all went down there and beat Australia on their own soil,” he recollected.

“It was the first time they’d done so but I got pulled out of the tour by Brian (Noble) just two days before they went!”

The decision of the then Bulls coach would not have been so bad if the player had featured heavily during the length of the tour.

But Pryce laughed: “I only played once out of four games.

“I was devastated as I missed out on a nice tour for one match!

“But to play first team was more important for me back then.”

Leeds’ teenage back-row Stevie Ward clearly feels the same as he has withdrawn from the current tour to try and cement his place in the Rhinos side.

By the time Bateman returns, hopefully, Bradford’s future will finally be secure.

A week today is the deadline to avoid liquidation which, ironically, is also when Pryce turns 26. Everyone knows what the perfect present would be.