Rugby League: Bulls are recharged

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IT HAS been a week of soul-searching for the reigning Super League Champions. Bradford's third successive defeat at Salford on Sunday was swiftly followed by the decision to cut their losses on Shaun Edwards and, later in the week, by a quite extraordinary public apology from the players - to the fans, that is, not to Edwards.

It had been obvious to everyone from the start that the recruitment of the former Wigan and Great Britain scrum-half had not worked out. Without the benefit of hindsight, it looked a smart move. Better than that, it looked like recognition from the Bulls that what was good enough last season would not necessarily be good enough this. But Edwards was never allowed to bring his strengths to bear on the Bulls' style of play.

"It was a question of whether a whole team was going to change their methods, or one individual," the Bradford coach, Matthew Elliott, said. In the event, neither did and Edwards' eight months at Odsal degenerated into a classic mismatch. "There was no lack of effort on either side, but it's like a marriage - some work and some don't," Elliott said, valiantly trying to dress it up as an amicable divorce.

Now Bradford must look to the future, hence that bizarre "mea culpa" from the players. Amid much rending of garments, a contrite statement virtually begged for forgiveness and promised that "we will do everything humanly possible to restore the faith and pride that all concerned with this great club deserve".

Professionals almost always know when they have been playing poorly, but they are usually loath to admit it quite so publicly. As Elliott said: "We have put our heads on the chopping block by saying we are going to put things right."

At least they have a manageable first step towards winning back their pride against last-placed Huddersfield today. They also have important players returning from injury and suspension, in Brian McDermott, Matt Calland and James Lowes. One new element, however, could be the 19-year- old scrum-half, Paul Deacon. The former Oldham player has been so outstanding in the Academy and Alliance teams that he has been included, before making his Super League debut, in Andy Goodway's Emerging England squad for the match against Wales next month.

That will come today and, with another teenager, Stuart Fielden, already making his mark, it is time for the Bulls to start looking forward, not back.