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Bullman, The Wizard and a Challenge Cup predicament

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George Riley George Riley | 14:04 UK time, Thursday, 11 March 2010

Bradford's comeback against Wigan was the most thrilling 40 minutes of the season to date. Trailing 20-0, they hit back to win 22-20 against the competition's form team and show that this herd of Bulls will fight hoof and horn for their coach Steve McNamara.

Yet this magnificent victory was tarnished by the news that one of Bradford's key men has suffered a severe injury setback. In a crushing blow, Bradford's livewire mascot Bullman will miss the next eight weeks after suffering a freak jogging injury. The furry favourite was kept under medical supervision overnight in hospital after tearing the calf muscle off his bone during a routine training run with Bank Top Harriers RLFC.

"I thought I'd been shot in the back of the leg," Bullman, aka 35-year-old Mark Brown, told me this week. "It swelled up to the point the doctor thought it was going to affect my circulation so they wanted to keep me in for supervision. I have been told I'll be out for up to eight weeks so I may have to warm the crowd up on crutches, or perhaps get Bullboy to push me round in a wheelchair." I understand there are no plans to recruit a dramatic short-term replacement for the popular cheerleader.

Bizarre mascot injuries aside, the Bradford players have been hitting bullseyes of a different kind this week. Steve 'Beaver' Menzies and pals satisfied their new-found love of darts with a trip to watch the Premier League after Menzies struck up a rapport with Aussies arrow-thrower Simon 'The Wizard' Whitlock.

Simon Whitlock lost out to Phil Taylor in the final of the 2010 PDC World ChampionshipSimon Whitlock lost out to Phil Taylor in the final of the 2010 PDC World Championship

I first met Menzies at a curry house in Bradford shortly before he signed for the Bulls before the start of last season. Even then, what excited him most about coming to England was the opportunity to watch some live darts. "I got into the darts last year and have my own board and a couple of sets of arrows so I have no excuse not to be any good," he said.

'Beaver' started following 'The Wizard' during the last World Championships after discovering there was an Australian who was handy at darts. Sporting a mullet and facial hair to rival any rival, Whitlock has now acquired himself a new set of followers.

"Me and a few boys are off to watch him in the Premier League and throw a few darts with him beforehand," said a very excited Menzies. "Darts is an amazing atmosphere and the skill in the checkouts is so tough. There's not much darts Down Under so I love seeing it here and I can't believe what some players are capable of. When you try it yourself you appreciate the skill and talent. It leaves you in awe."

Chris Nero, Nick Scruton and Glenn Hall are all joining Menzies at the darts. And they have been practising on the two dartboards at the Bulls' new training complex at Tong School in Bradford. Scruton has been putting the most hours in as he is concerned about being shown up on the oche, although after undergoing laser eye surgery a couple of years back the big prop should have no trouble locating the treble 20.

Speaking of rugby league players in unfamiliar surroundings, Edinburgh must have been some sight last week, as a host of top players travelled up to promote the Murrayfield Magic Weekend. The likes of Lee Briers, Ade Gardner, Chev Walker and Luke George rocked up at Edinburgh Zoo and the Royal Yacht, also making a trip to sample the Scotch Whisky Experience.

Gareth Thomas may have woken up this week feeling like he'd been to the Whisky Experience, too. The Crusaders rugby union convert has been given a fierce baptism in training by Brian Noble, Iestyn Harris and co in Wrexham as he bids to be ready for a possible rugby league debut next weekend.

"It was a tough session, and we intentionally made it that way," Harris told my colleague Andy Wilson at The Guardian this week.

Iestyn's insight into Thomas as a league player is fascinating, while the player himself clearly cannot wait to get going. Thomas says he's been unable to do any kind of exercise in between training sessions because they have been so intense.

Gareth ThomasThomas is getting to grips with league

The Welshman is loving the challenge and says he will play against Catalans next Friday if he proves himself good enough. He told a mutual mate of ours - fellow BBC presenter Gethin Jones - that rugby league is "a lot tougher than it looks, some serious hits!!" Gethin is a massive union fan so he won't have taken that too well. If you want to follow Thomas as he gets to grips with League, then his twitter feed is excellent.

The Carnegie Challenge Cup draw threw up some decent ties this week. The BBC will televise the 2005 final repeat between Hull FC and Leeds on Saturday, 17 April. On the Sunday, you'll be able to watch Huddersfield and Hull KR.

Sticking with the Cup, spare a thought for Lee Greenwood. As a player, you can find him on the wing for Batley Bulldogs. As a coach, he yells from the touchline at Pennine League side Siddal, who are a shock inclusion in this year's fourth round. You can probably guess who they got drawn against! Perhaps a half for each?

Just time to direct you to Gabby Logan's lunchtime show on 5 live on Monday, 15 March. Quins coach Brian McDermott will join us in the studio at 1300 GMT as part of our sports panel. If he's in the mood then it will be well worth a listen.


  • Comment number 1.

    sorry George

    How easily you reporters forget
    it was a great comeback by Bradford but not the best 40 mins of the season- Warrington v Wigan last month- that was a fantastic game from minute 1 to minute 80 and it had a great comeback in it as well- i appreciate youre main interest is Yorkshire teams but even you would have to concede on that one

  • Comment number 2.

    Maybe we could somehow combine darts with rugby. Stuart Pyke must have some ideas.

  • Comment number 3.

    Cocokin - yeah that was an absolute cracker, I've a couple of pals at the Wolves and they're still talking about that. I just think the lack of expectation of a Bulls comeback made that pretty special.
    Nottswarrior - nice idea. Saints are into their darts too...spent a morning at their gym last season and they've got a board outside the workout room

  • Comment number 4.

    As a Hull KR fan, I am disappointed that our game is on TV.
    As a RL fan, the better game would have been the other final repeat of Sheffield & Wigan.
    or Show Batley & Siddal. give the smaller clubs a bigger share of the TV money. I'm certain Siddal could do with it.

  • Comment number 5.

    Andie, the problem there is the BBC will want to put what they consider to be the best games on TV for the viewing public and Batley v Siddal, with all, respect, is not in the same league as the 2 fixtures they have picked. I too would love to see what you have suggested but until we get a second tier full time division, it isn't going to happen.


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