Rugby League: Slow burn by Bulls enough for Elliott

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The Independent Online
MATTHEW ELLIOTT is not unhappy that his Bradford Bulls side are only slowly working their way into the sort of form that won the Super League championship last season.

If Bradford are only gradually coming to terms with the welcome fact that more teams can stand up to them physically, then Elliott will counter with the old sporting truism that they are engaged in a marathon rather than a sprint.

"I'm delighted that we are working towards playing really well by the end of the season," he said.

"We've slightly changed the core of the team and my expectations for it to click straightaway were probably a bit misguided."

Those changes started to look promising against St Helens last Sunday, however, with Steve McNamara and this season's newcomer, Shaun Edwards, controlling matters in the middle of the field, and Robbie Paul and Graeme Bradley getting into wider positions to considerable effect.

One player from whom Elliott has got an instant pay-off is Tevita Vaikona, his winter signing from Hull. He has been a regular try-scorer and leads the way in the whole of Super League in the more esoteric statistic of yards gained.

"There's still a lot of improvement left in him," said Elliott. "We just have to find other ways of getting him more involved. He's an outstanding player - world class."

Bradford, who might have Stuart Spruce returning at full-back after a back injury, despite the fine job that Nathan Graham did in his place against St Helens, face a Halifax team tomorrow night who have had an interesting week to say the least.

John Pendlebury resigned as coach on Wednesday night, only to be persuaded back into the fold 24 hours later.

His point - a valid one - was that there is little advantage in him getting the players to work together if the board cannot do the same.

With Karl Harrison clear from the threat of suspension to lead from the front, Halifax's players will be trying to give Pendlebury their own vote of confidence tomorrow but the week they have had hardly counts as ideal preparation.

The side that Elliott - and virtually everyone else - expects to improve dramatically as the season moves towards its climatic play-offs are the London Broncos. They need to - with only one win from five matches they are not far from losing touch, although they should recoup some ground at Huddersfield whose coach, Garry Schofield, was frankly disgusted with them after their fifth loss in a row at Salford last week.

The same proviso, about the danger of losing touch, applies to Sheffield, who are at Salford.

Warrington will be keen to show that their first win of the season, against Halifax last week, was no blip on the screen.

They have Jon Roper free to play despite his sending-off in that game, and Castleford can expect a similarly robust welcome to Wilderspool.

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