Bradford Bulls head coach Geoff Toovey last night revealed he is undecided whether he will remain with the relegated club.
The sad demise of the three-times World Club champions continued on Sunday when their 26-10 home loss against Toulouse confirmed they would drop out of the Championship into League 1.
Just 11 years on from beating NRL premiers Wests Tigers to rule the sport, beleaguered Bradford must now contemplate playing the likes of Hemel Stags, Coventry Bears and Gloucestershire All Golds next term.
Admittedly, they spent seven weeks in administration before going out of business in January and the reformed club was only granted a reprieve in the Championship as the RFL said that was the “least worst option”.
Crisis-torn Bradford started with a 12 point deduction but only reached zero when they beat Oldham in June, a sole win in the last 15 games.
Clearly, it was always going to be difficult to overcome that hurdle but to be consigned to the drop with six games still to go is still damning.
Even if they had not been docked points, the Bulls would still be in the bottom two regardless and it has been another sobering campaign at Odsal.
Things started positively when new owners Andrew Chalmers and Graham Lowe appointed former Kangaroos star Toovey, the revered 48-year-old who led his beloved Manly Sea Eagles to the 2013 NRL Grand Final.
Even though he could not “officially” take over until mid-June due to visa issues, they won five of their opening nine games to offer hope that the four-times Super League champions could not only survive but prosper.
However, that momentum soon disappeared and, despite operating a full-time squad in a largely part-time league, the campaign has utterly withered out.
In an interview with The Yorkshire Post, Toovey maintained he has enjoyed the experience but conceded he, as yet, has no firm plans in place for 2018.
“They are very loyal here and very passionate about their rugby league in Bradford,” he said.
“It’s great to be in this environment and it’s been a fantastic experience for me so far. We’ll see where it ends up.
“I’ve not made a decision (about 2018) yet. I committed to this year, this season, and that’s as far as it goes at this stage.
“There’s a decision I have to make for the benefit of everyone and sooner rather than later but there’s a few games for that to happen yet.
“We’re just focusing on winning as many of the remaining matches as possible.
“It’s very disappointing for the club and the game in general for this to happen (relegation) but it was always going to be tough with the problems encountered.
“When you’re stripped of 12 points, stripped of players and stripped of finance you are always going to be behind the eight ball.
“The owners had five or six days to put a squad together. It’s a bit of a fallacy to think players were queuing up to sign here.
“But the people at the club and players themselves have done a fantastic job backed up by a huge fan base and the sponsors, too.
“Everybody has been on board even if it does all seem as if it’s been in vain. If that is the case.”
That last sentence sounds quite cryptic especially as there has been widespread speculation that a restructure of the competition for 2018 could yet see Bradford remain in the second-tier.
However, Toovey insisted: “I don’t know anything about that and I don’t deal in rumours.
“All we can do is perform well and the players – whether their futures are here or anywhere else – need to show they have the ability and application to achieve.
“It is very difficult getting used to the set-up over here of promotion and relegation especially when rugby league is such a niche market in the north of England and a bit of France.
“With chopping and changing it’s difficult to have a plan when you don’t know where you’ll be in 12 months time.”
Bradford’s second relegation in three years has begged the question whether they should actually have been consigned to League 1 at the start of this season – as was always expected after their liquidation – rather than be given that RFL reprieve.
“I wasn’t around at the time and I don’t know the league set-up as well as the people who made that decision,” said Toovey.
“But rugby league can be fragile and if you keep messing around with it I think fans will be turned off.
“Whatever the structure is going forward, let’s crack on and get on with it.”
For now, though, all they can crack on with is Sunday’s Championship Shield game against Oldham when, regardless of their hapless plight, the bid to start rebuilding must surely begin.
And that is whether Toovey is here for the long-haul or not.
Meanwhile, Widnes Vikings forward Eamon O’Carroll has announced his retirement, having suffered a nerve injury in their defeat by Wakefield last month.
The former Ireland international, 30, played for Wigan and had a brief spell at Hull FC before joining Widnes in 2012.