Purtell’s powers of recovery can help drive Bulls back into the top tier

Bradford's Adrian Purtell. Picture: Simon Hulme.Bradford's Adrian Purtell. Picture: Simon Hulme.
Bradford's Adrian Purtell. Picture: Simon Hulme.
AFTER suffering a heart attack just over three years ago, Bradford Bulls’ Adrian Purtell admits he does occasionally wonder if he should still be playing rugby league.

However, the Australian centre, who required surgery after falling unconscious on the way back from the club’s Magic Weekend game in May 2012, is arguably playing better than ever.

Purtell made his comeback 10 months after that scare and, having endured a different sort of pain with relegation from Super League last season, has played a crucial role in their ongoing battle to return to the elite. Indeed, the 30-year-old will captain Bradford tomorrow at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in the crucial ‘Million Pound Game’, a contest that decides who gains the 12th and final spot in Super League for 2016.

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“I get check-ups once a year and there are still scars there that show I had a heart attack,” explained Purtell.

“It pops up into my mind every now and then when things get a little bit tough like ‘Should I be doing this?’

“But I love the game and worked myself really hard in the off-season, got all the all-clears from the doctors before I came back playing, and it is bit of a distant memory now. It’s one I sometimes struggle to think – why did it happen anyway?

“But looking forward, I’m glad I’m at Bradford for another two years – and hopefully it’s in Super League.”

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To achieve that aim, they must defeat Wakefield, who finished 12th in Super League but vanquished their West Yorkshire rivals 48-18 in their opening Qualifiers game just seven weeks ago.

Granted, Bradford have improved since, defeating Salford Red Devils, although they have slumped at times too.

It matters little. Now there are just 80 minutes to decide their destiny.

“It is massive,” admitted the former Canberra Raiders and Penrith Panthers star.

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“In my career it’s up there as one of the biggest games I’ve ever played in – the opportunity to get Bradford back into Super League where we believe the club belongs. It’s in its best position off the field since I’ve been over here (signed at end of 2011) and we’ve just got a great chance now to win this one-off game and get back.

“We have got to forget about that last Wakefield game but learn from the mistakes; we just didn’t start well enough and gave them too many opportunities.”

Purtell, of course, could have just walked away from Odsal 12 months ago when the erstwhile World Club champions were demoted.

But, he insisted: “It wasn’t a tough decision to stay.

“I’m comfortable at Bradford and (coach) Jimmy (Lowes) told me probably after just two days of being here that he wanted me to stay.

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“It didn’t sit well that I was in a squad that was relegated at such a proud club and that motivated me.”

Purtell will revert to centre tomorrow having filled in admirably at stand-off for Lee Gaskell, the Championship Player of the Year who bruised his kidneys in that previous game against Wakefield and only returned off the bench in Saturday’s embarrassing 52-18 home loss to Halifax.

Lowes rested plenty for that game, including Purtell, but, for the first time this season, has a fully-fit squad.

Wakefield, meanwhile, welcome back former England hooker Scott Moore and prop Anthony Walker as they replace Scott Anderson – injured in Sunday’s loss at Sheffield – and Matty Ashurst.

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Trinity have also sacked Tim Smith after the Australian scrum-half was banned from driving for 28 months and fined £900 on Wednesday after admitting failing to provide a specimen following a car crash in Hull last month. Smith, 30, was also fined £600 for careless driving and had two months left on his contract.