It’s a very sorry state of affairs at Odsal; one which no sports fan would wish upon any club. Whilst there is still hope for one of the greatest clubs in the Super League era, those hopes could end on deadline day tomorrow. Therefore, now seems the appropriate time to ask, which have been the biggest moments of the Bradford Bulls? Here are our top ten.
1. There have been many top class players to play for the Bulls in this era. However amongst the likes of Fielden, Peacock and Pryce, Robbie Paul still managed to stand out. His class is epitomised by his hat-trick in the Challenge Cup Final defeat of 1996. Despite being on the losing team, Paul picked up the Lance Todd trophy, just one of many memorable performances that singles him out as one of Bradford’s greatest players.
2. How about the Bulls’ first Super League victory? The Bulls were good in the inaugural year; however they were unstoppable in the second season in 1997 as they won their first title, losing just two games in the process.
3. The Bulls continued to become more and more successful over the coming years, including their first Challenge cup win in 52 years coming in 2000. This was made even sweeter by the fact the final was against local rivals and cup holders Leeds Rhinos, beating them 24-18 in the first game held outside Wembley at Murrayfield.
4. However, that same year saw heartbreak for the Bulls. The “Wide to West” try, as it is fondly remembered, is often considered to be the greatest try in the history of Super League, especially given the occasion as it saw Saints score in the final play of the match in order to take the lead over Bradford and reach the Grand Final. Bulls coach Matthew Elliott’s reaction rather sums it up.
5. 2002 began well as they were crowned World Club Champions, but it wasn’t such a happy end for the Bulls as a Sean Long drop goal denied them another Super League title. More heartbreak for the Bulls… however it only made them stronger for the 2003 season.
6. The tre-bull: It is literally impossible to pick out a single highlight from the 2003 season for the Bulls, as there were just too many to count. The season saw them beat local rivals Leeds five times including a 48-16 drubbing as well as some incredibly tight matches which they won 18-16 and 22-21 and most importantly of all the 22-20 Challenge Cup final victory. They also won every competition they competed in. Equalled only by St Helens in 2006, 2003 will always be remembered as the Year of the Bull.
7. Comeback kings? It all started so badly for Bradford in 2005 as they sunk to eleventh place in the Super League after a miserable run of form. However, an end of season revival saw the Bulls win 12 on the bounce and eventually crowned as Super League champions for, as it stands, their last trophy in a sweet act of revenge over their victors at Old Trafford the year before, the Leeds Rhinos.
8. It isn’t possible to mention the greatest moments of the Bulls without reference to possibly the greatest try scorer in the Bulls history: Lesley Vainikolo. In 2004 he broke the record for number of tries in a season with an incredible 34 tries in 23 appearances. The following year “the volcano” managed another record as he scored six tries in a single match against the hapless Hull FC. He finished at the Bulls with 149 tries in 152 games making him one of the most prolific try scorers of the summer era.
9. Where would Rugby League be without a bit of controversy? Whilst their derby match at the inaugural Millenium Magic may not have been the most important game in the history of the sport, it is still something that will stand out long in the memory. Jordan Tansey’s try from an offside position is one of very few refereeing mistakes where an official has actually had to publically apologise which shows just how shocking this error was to gift the game to the Rhinos. Painful? Certainly. But memorable all the same.
10. There wouldn’t be such an article if it wasn’t for the Bulls financial turmoil this season, so it has to be mentioned. However as long as things work out in the coming weeks, it hasn’t been all bad. Firstly, the fans response has been incredible, highlighted by their efforts to raise the initial £500,000 to save the club. Secondly the reaction of the players and staff has been of the highest standard as well with Mick Potter’s coaching team swallowing their pride to continue leading them as well as some great performances from the players which, if they continue, leaves them in good stead for reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
We can only wish them luck in continuing to survive however, on reflection, it is clear that Super League would not be the same without Bradford Bulls.