Bradford stay up but hooter sounds for Potter

 

Bradford will still be in Super League next season, but without the coach who has guided them through the crises of the last few months.

The RFL's board of directors has given the Bulls a probationary one-year licence to continue playing in the competition.

The club went into administration in June and was threatened with closure until being taken over by new owners last month.

Those new owners have failed to persuade Mick Potter to stay on. Potter, who coached the Bulls unpaid for several weeks, is returning to Australia.

He has recommended his assistant, Francis Cummins, as his successor and the club plans to make a decision early next week.

Meanwhile, this time last year, Chris Hill can hardly have envisaged being involved in the Super League play-offs this weekend.

The prop forward, then with Leigh in the semi-professional Championship, was even contemplating getting a "proper" job and playing rugby in his spare time.

Hill was briefly on Wigan's books as a teenager before going back to playing as an amateur, He feared that he had missed the boat for playing at the highest level.

"My family and girlfriend have always been very supportive, but I'd reached the point where I'd started to think it wasn't going to happen," he said. "I thought I was going to have to look for another job."

Fortunately for him, the Warrington coach, Tony Smith, had spotted his potential and gave him his Super League opportunity.

Even then, Hill wondered whether he might be going to a club where the competition for front-row places was dauntingly fierce.

Already in the squad were seasoned internationals like Adrian Morley and Garreth Carvell, another prop who had played for his country in Paul Wood, plus a highly rated up-and-comer in Mike Cooper.

In a few months, however, he has battled his way to the front of the queue, with no less a figure than Morley, his captain, describing him as the form prop at the club.

"That means a lot coming from someone like him. I mean – I used to watch him when I was a kid," he said. "When I signed, I didn't think I'd play this much, but it's been a fantastic season for me."

Hill's form at the elite level has won him an array of club awards in his debut season. He was runner-up for the Albert Goldthorpe Rookie of the Year Medal and is in the England Knights squad for the end-of-season international, with every chance of forcing his way into the full Test side.

This evening, he will be part of a Wolves pack that will line up against St Helens, with the winners only 80 minutes away from the Grand Final at Old Trafford.

For the reigning champions Leeds and Wakefield two hours later, it is sudden death, with the Wildcats' coach, Richard Agar, admitting that two months ago he could not have imagined getting this far.

At that stage, Wakefield looked more likely to contest the wooden spoon than a play-off place, but a club record seven wins in a row allowed them to grab eighth place.

"It's been a remarkable story and we're going to Headingley with no illusions, but no fear either," Agar said.

That story began with assembling virtually a new team when Agar was appointed. In key positions, his signings have come up trumps.

The unpredictable Tim Smith has rediscovered his best form at scrum-half, while his partnership with Paul Sykes, on loan from Bradford, has thrived during their winning run.

Agar also expects to have the former Leeds forward, Ali Lauitiiti, available after missing last week with a migraine and believes that his ball-handling ability could be a match-winning quality. "He has that X-factor and, as a team that relies primarily on hard work, we don't have many players like that," he said.

Leeds welcome back a potential match-winner of their own, with the return of Danny McGuire after a four-match absence.

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