TWELVE years after leaving Bradford Bulls, Brian Noble was back there yesterday having signed up his Toronto Wolfpack side to a dual-registration agreement with the former Super League champions.
When the three-time Grand Final winning ex-Bulls coach departed for Wigan Warriors in 2006, he could never have imagined one day returning with his former club in League 1 let alone forming such a trans-Atlantic alliance.
However, Bradford are, indeed, in the third tier after last year’s relegation, the Canadian side, ironically, replacing them having romped to the League 1 title in their inaugural campaign.
Ambitious Toronto are now intent on reaching Super League swiftly too, while Bradford, of course, have plans to return to their former glories as well.
“In all seriousness, it is always still a thrill when I walk out at Odsal,” said Noble, Toronto’s director of rugby.
“Even when I had to put a red beard on to do so and a hard hat it was still always a thrill.
“Clearly, with this story, I see nothing but positives especially now the court case (Bradford have settled legal issues with a raft of current and past employees) is out of the way.
“And we’re a young club aspiring to be where Bradford have been for the last 100 years.
“We want to be at the top table, Bradford want to be at the top table and there is nothing but benefits. The fact (Bulls coach) John Kear went there helps everyone as obviously I’ve known him a long time, we’re friends and he’s someone I have the utmost respect for.
“When you have that amount of trust between each other you can do things.”
Bradford, who host Toronto in Friday’s Transatlantic Challenge friendly, have signed ex-Huddersfield Giants full-back Gregg McNally from Leigh Centurions on a two-year deal as they continue rebuilding.
Noble believes the partnership between the clubs can flourish with Bulls also announcing they will run a reserve grade team in 2018.
“If we do it right and in the true spirit of dual-registration – with that trust I mentioned – it will work,” he said.
“If I’m honest, I’m not a big fan of dual-reg and never have been. I am a big fan of having a first team, a reserve grade and whichever Academy age group is set to give players a career path through to the top.
“But, at Toronto, we’re only 18 months old and we have to try and maximise all the potential we can from both clubs.
“Bradford have a great academy while we have quite a big squad and some players will need game-time so hopefully we can help each other out.”
A Bulls statement read: “The partnership will increase the number of players available for the season, adding strength in depth for the push for promotion.
“Off-field relationships will prosper as both franchises will exchange marketing, commercial knowledge and best practise methods for the good of the fans and clubs alike. The cohesion of both sides will help initiate the development of Bradford’s reserve grade squad, allowing fringe and young players quality game-time to develop and prepare to play first-team.”
Meanwhile, Bulls co-owner Andrew Chalmers has said there is no “substance” in reports former Salford Red Devils owner Marwan Koukash will be investing into the club.