IN what will only be the fifth game of his Bradford Bulls career, former Queensland State of Origin star Dane Nielson is ready to repay the club today after they gave him such a crucial rugby league lifeline.
Sacked by St George-Illawarra in May for allegedly biting a woman in a nightclub, and having played just four games following his move from New Zealand Warriors, the rangy centre’s future looked bleak.
However, the 30-year-old was given the chance to start over when Championship club Bradford signed him on an 18-month deal in August. Nielson debuted in the impressive 41-10 Qualifiers win over Super League side Salford Red Devils and has quickly brought some class to their backline.
He will line-up there again this afternoon in the Million Pound Game at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats hoping to secure them top-flight status for 2016.
“This is the whole reason I came over here,” said Nielson.
“I had a bit of time outside of footy – just family time with friends up in Queensland – and it was the best decision I’ve probably made.
“Having that time away from the game made me really hungry to get back into it and when the opportunity came to come over here to Bradford I jumped at it.
“I’ve been lucky enough to meet a lot of great people, have made a home away from home and I’ve only been here for seven weeks.
“I thank the club for that and hopefully I can repay them by doing by part in getting a win this weekend.
“When this opportunity came up I really did think we had a crack at getting back in Super League and that appealed to me.
“We’ve still got a big hurdle but we’re ready for it.”
Nielson, who won the NRL Grand Final with Melbourne Storm in 2009 and the World Club Challenge against Leeds Rhinos the following year, has yet to score for Bradford, something he would love to correct this afternoon.
Bradford, of course, were annihilated by Wakefield at Belle Vue seven weeks ago and they are slight underdogs this afternoon.
Trinity will look to recreate the magic of 2006 when they defied the odds to avoid relegation at Belle Vue with an heroic and memorable win against derby rivals Castleford Tigers.
Nielson added: “For both clubs and for a lot of reasons there’s a lot at stake here.
“There’s a lot on the line, the opportunity to go back up for us and create history and for a team like Wakefield, well, they don’t want to go back down to the Championship.
“In terms of the fans, the clubs, the coaching staff the players there’s so much at stake there is a lot of pressure it can make or break some players games like this.
“But we’ve prepared well. We haven’t won every game or been perfect and had a few slip-ups but it’s about one game now.”
Tim Sheens has resigned as Australia’s national coach to take up a three-year contract as full-time director of rugby with Salford.
The 64-year-old guided the Kangaroos to victory in the 2013 World Cup.