Bulls aiming to exorcise demons of survival-day nightmare show

IT MAY be 10 months on but Jarrod Sammut admits Bradford Bulls players are still “haunted” by their record defeat against Hull FC.

Jarrod Sammut

It was September 1 last year when the Airlie Birds arrived at Odsal and quickly dampened Bradford’s elation at avoiding extinction by inflicting an embarrassing 70-6 loss.

England winger Tom Briscoe ran in a hat-trick during the 13-try demolition and Jamie Foster – ironically likely to be in the Bulls side when the clubs reconvene there for the first time since tonight – finished with a personal haul of 24 points.

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“We had mixed emotions that night,” recalled mercurial half-back Sammut.

“Omar (Khan) had stepped in and saved the club that day after all the administration and money problems.

“He told us he wanted to build us back up to where we used to be and, obviously, that was great to hear.

“But, on the other side, the result didn’t go our way and that does still haunt the boys to this day.

“It is still in the back of everyone’s minds what happened against Hull. They did a really good job on us last year. We know we have to make up for that and we’ll be looking to rectify it.”

The sobering result on the penultimate weekend of the regular season effectively ended Bradford’s growing hopes of reaching the play-offs.

They had strung together three successive wins amid all the off-field chaos and were in touching distance of making the eight for the first time since 2008.

Khan did not know whether to laugh or cry.

Come tonight, that elusive play-offs odyssey is central once more.

There are still six games remaining but such is Bradford’s current state – they have the worst run in Super League with six successive defeats – that another loss will all but render their chances hopeless.

Hull, similarly struggling, hold the final play-off place and are four points in front of their hosts who sit 10th after an alarming mid-season slump.

It would be too easy to suggest Bradford’s problems have coincided with the loss to injury of Sammut but they have undoubtedly missed his flair and match-winning ability.

The enigmatic Australian has been absent since suffering a quad injury in their 28-18 loss at Hull KR on June 2 with their last triumph having come a fortnight earlier at Salford.

He had scored 18 tries in just 19 games, including two hat-tricks, kicked 33 goals and was producing the sort of luminous form that had earmarked him as a Man of Steel candidate.

Inevitably, those hopes have now gone but, ahead of his much-anticipated return, he sees no reason why Francis Cummins’s side cannot fulfil their squad goal of securing a top-eight spot.

“Anything is possible at the moment,” insisted the 26-year-old.

“We started really well and when we’ve got our full squad fit you can see we could be a top-five team.

“But the biggest downfall for us this year is I don’t think we’ve ever had our strongest 17 out there on the pitch.

“That will strengthen us in the long-term but we’ve a few players back this week and, hopefully, that will see us start again and build on what we did at the start.

“I can’t see why we can’t make the eight and we’re confident in ourselves that we can win the next six. If a few results go our way, too, we can be well in there.”

Bradford do have four of their final six games at home, including bottom-placed London Broncos plus Catalan Dragons and, on the last day, Huddersfield Giants.

After Hull, they are at ninth-placed Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and they also face another West Yorkshire derby against a Castleford Tigers side that sit below them.

If they can get a win this evening it could certainly kick-start something. As Sammut says, they are bolstered by the return of some players, including influential full-back Brett Kearney plus forwards Jamie Langley, Chev Walker and Tom Olbison.

Typically, they have lost another two in Adam Sidlow and Matty Blythe but seeing that key triumvirate of Kearney, scrum-half Luke Gale and Sammut back in sync will give fans reasons to be confident of pulling themselves out of this current trough.

Sammut is confident he can quickly start firing again.

“The injury has come along fine,”he said. “It seems like an eternity ago since I was last out on the field with the boys, though, and I hope to play my part for the team now.

“At the start of the season, I was going pretty well and I was happy with that form.

“But just before I got injured, I hit a flat spell and there were some displays which didn’t please me. I’m hoping to get straight back to that earlier form and help my team out, hopefully bring a little bit of magic and get us back in that play-off mix.”