Battling Bulls may yet prosper in adversity
If Bradford Bulls are to be saved, this week's departure of chairman Peter Hood was vital. I say that not in any way to disrespect Hood - I don't know the man. I say it because none of the investors contemplating rescuing the club would do so under the current regime.
I spoke to chief executive Ryan Duckett on Wednesday after the news of Hood's departure was made public. While he would not reveal details of potential investors - who or how many they were - he told me there was a "group of shareholders" who wanted to get involved in the club's future.
This group, Duckett revealed, had indicated that "there are certain people who they are not confident in".
In effect, Hood jumped before he was pushed, and would not have survived a vote of no confidence at the extraordinary general meeting called by the club's majority shareholder Chris Caisley - Bradford's former chairman.
Duckett also told me the prospect of Caisley taking over again was one with which he would have no problem at all.
Since reaching their initial survival target of £500,000 thanks to the remarkable efforts and generosity of their own fans, Bradford have gone quiet on progress. This has left fans frustrated, and Duckett would not reveal the current financial situation when I asked.
But spare a thought for the players while all this is going on. This is not just sport, it is life. These are not Premier League millionaires, these are relatively low-earning league players running into brick walls every week to support their families. What on earth are they going through?
"Like the fans, I thank the players for their support and patience," Duckett said.
"They have been brilliant with the last few weeks having been very difficult not knowing what's going on, but hopefully we will soon have momentum."
Odsal was sold to the RFL and then leased back by Bradford. Photo: Getty
Centre Keith Lulia is in his first season at Odsal after quitting Australia with his wife to try Super League. He was excited and optimistic about the move, citing the opportunity to join one of the biggest names in Super League as key to his decision to emigrate. He is only 24.
"Me and my wife moved over for a fresh start," he said. "We were just settling in and starting to love Bradford and now this. It's been stressful the whole time and I just want it to sort itself out. We have no option but to go with the flow.
"I think of Bradford as one of the top Super League teams with a great history and now I don't know if I'm getting paid."
Lulia only signed a two-year contract and admits it has been so unsettling he will not
sign a new deal until the club's future is decided.
"I will re-sign if they get someone to buy the club or find some money. Until then who knows what I'm going to do. If they fold I'll be at another club.
"I want to know where I stand with the club and what is going to happen. This is a big distraction".
Prop Nick Scruton agrees with the Australian.
"It's unsettling," he said. "We don't know from week to week if we're getting paid. We have to try and put it to the back of the head and the boys have been awesome, trying to do Bradford proud."
But Scruton, although sidelined himself after shoulder surgery, says he has seen the team bond through their shared adversity.
"It has definitely pulled us closer together," he said.
"When it happened, we got together and decided we can't break off in to little splinter groups, we all have to get through it together, so we are now as one, and hugely tight-knit."
Bradford's future remains unclear but Duckett is meeting investors over the next week and remains confident, even though he concedes "significant investment" is needed to keep the club alive.
But would it now be easier just to hold their hands up and go into administration? "Absolutely not," he said. "That is the last thing any of the investors want."
And after taking half a million pounds from the fans to stay afloat, it would indeed appear unthinkable for Bradford to go down that road now.
More likely is a return for Caisley, the man who oversaw the glory years of five successive Grand Finals at the start of the millennium. What chance Brian Noble, a Bulls hero for coaching those champion sides, returning too, with Mick Potter in the final year of his contract?
What is for sure is the immense credit the Bulls players should take for their efforts through this. The Good Friday derby win over Leeds on the day that could have proved their last conjured memories of those heady Caisley-Noble days.
Their subsequent against-the-odds efforts have the Bulls in a play-off spot and heading for their most successful season in years.
So at the risk of breaking new ground in quoting Dolly Parton in a rugby league blog, if you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain.