Harris watches and waits for his chance

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The Independent Online

Iestyn Harris will watch his first match as a Bradford player this afternoon, with the way now clear for him to make his debut as soon as he and his new club are ready.

Regardless of the legal challenge to his signing from Leeds, Harris was not going to play at Castleford today. You do not waste a money-spinning first appearance on an away fixture.

It is also seven weeks since he played, thanks to a knee injury that ruled him out of Wales's tour to Argentina and effectively ended his rugby union career.

He did not train with his new team-mates until Friday, and the Bulls' coach, Brian Noble, is in no hurry to throw him into the fray. "I won't rush him," he says. "He will come in when the time is right for him and the team."

The other thing Bradford were waiting for was clearance from the Rugby League, who had to sort out the confusion over whose player Harris now is. The Bulls have signed a four-and-a-half-year contract with the player, but Leeds had lodged with the League the contract that they claimed Harris signed when he left them.

Their contention was that the document committed him to returning to the Rhinos at the end of his rugby union commitments. Bradford, Harris and his legal advisors disagreed, and the League have ruled unequivocally in their favour.

Bradford see Harris as a player of very special significance for them. Quite apart from the nefarious thrill of pinching him from their neighbours, they have often been sadly lacking this season in the sort of midfield inspiration he could provide.

Harris, at 28, will not be the same player who left rugby league for his Welsh adventure at 25. He will be scrutinised for signs that he is soft, slow or out of condition, but he believes that sceptics will be pleasantly surprised. "I feel a more complete player because of skills I've learned in union that I didn't have before," he says.

Time will tell. This afternoon, he will have the opportunity to see his new club demonstrate that, for all league's increased speed and intensity since he left, there remains a big gulf between the top and bottom of Super League.

Castleford were top-six candidates when Harris went to Wales. Now, with just one win so far this season, they are on their way to relegation. It is a reminder that not everything in rugby league is as he left it.