Summer Bash: Plenty up for grabs as Championship switches to Blackpool

WHEN fixtures were being planned for this season's Championship Summer Bash, pitching together Hull KR and Bradford Bulls seemed such an obvious fit.

Dane Chisholm, right, is back in Bradford Bulls colours today against Hull KR.  Picture: Tony Johnson.
Dane Chisholm, right, is back in Bradford Bulls colours today against Hull KR. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Rovers, having been relegated from Super League, facing one of their other erstwhile top-flight opponents in the Blackpool sunshine was sure to get the crowds flocking.

It has in many ways; prolific leaders Hull KR will take almost 4,000 fans for the third and final game of today’s first instalment of what essentially is the second-tier’s Magic Weekend.

However, Bradford, three-time World Club champions, remain in utter disarray.

Despite new owners, with their confident talk, taking them on earlier this season after the last club was liquidated, they remain rooted to the foot of the table, still with negative points after their 12-point deduction.

They have lost their last five matches, have won only four all season and, bizarrely, Geoff Toovey – the high-profile Australian coach announced on the eve of the campaign – has still yet to get the right visa to be able to take control of the side.

Many expect Rovers to put 50 points on them this evening even if Bradford have finally had some positive news with Dane Chisholm’s switch from Sheffield Eagles having finally gone through.

Bulls announced the former Melbourne Storm stand-off’s signing seven weeks ago only for their Championship rivals to insist he remained their player.

Featherstone's head coach Jon Sharp. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Bradford agreed on a settlement earlier this week which allows Chisholm – who scored nine tries in just 11 games for Bulls last season – to at last make his ‘second’ debut, ironically, against Rovers, where he enjoyed a seven-game spell on his first UK venture in 2015.

That said, Chisholm – set to replace captain Leon Pryce who announced his retirement on Thursday – has not played since March 13 when Sheffield lost 48-10 in the Challenge Cup at Hull KR so Bradford should not expect any miracles. Beforehand, however, there should be a far tighter game when second-placed Featherstone Rovers pit their six-match winning run against London Broncos, in fourth, who have won five on the trot.

While Hull KR already seem assured of a place in the Qualifiers, Featherstone coach Jon Sharp reckons today’s Bloomfield Road fixture will be pivotal in the battle for spots in the Middle Eights.

“It is a big one for the top-four,” he said.

Featherstone's head coach Jon Sharp. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

“It is too close to call – there’s ourselves, Toulouse, London and Halifax fighting for three spots.

“London are white hot at the moment and they are racking big scores up – they’ve scored 42, 38, 74 and 56 in their last four games – so they are in really good form and they are going to be a big challenge for us.

“But we intend to make it a challenge for them.

“It is going to be perfect conditions and the warm weather and dry tracks certainly suit our team.”

Batley Bulldogs will look for some payback when they take on Dewsbury Rams tomorrow in the final game of the Summer Bash.

Rams have won only three games in all competitions this year and two were against Batley.

Bulldogs are upbeat after beating Oldham last week and coach Matt Diskin admitted: “We feel we’ve not given a true reflection of ourselves v Dewsbury. They have raised their game to a better degree than us in the two games so far.

“In the last one, in the Cup, we were in a really dominant position and threw it away.

“This time we want to put a performance in that is a true reflection of our capabilities.”

Sheffield open proceedings tomorrow lunchtime against Swinton Lions before Halifax face Toulouse.

Meanwhile, Gary Thornton, recently sacked as head coach by Doncaster, has taken over at League 1 rivals Hunslet Hawks.