Rugby League: Elliott's predicament of three halves

Dave Hadfield talks to the Bradford coach with a dilemma for his first derby today
Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE Bradford Bulls' coach, Matthew Elliott, has a dilemma going into today's match against Leeds, but he insists that it is the sort that he welcomes. Elliott must decide whether to break up his established half- back pairing of Robbie Paul and Graeme Bradley or to leave Shaun Edwards stewing on the bench.

The choice could yet be simplified by Edwards' struggle against a back injury, but the conundrum will not go away. In the long term, three into two won't go. "When I look at the options I've got at half-back, I'm excited by them, not distracted," said Elliott. "If you had a choice between Robbie Paul and Shaun Edwards you would have to be pretty happy. It can create a dilemma, but that's what coaching is about. I'll have another dilemma in a couple of weeks when James Lowes is fit again."

In the meantime, though, it is getting the best out of two gifted, but very different, specialists at scrum-half that will give him plenty of food for thought. Apart from Edwards, Elliott must also decide whether to bring back Jon Scales after a thumb operation. Otherwise, the side is likely to be the one that won at Huddersfield last week.

Nor is the Leeds prop Barrie McDermott about to be added to the mix. The player, at present serving a suspension, was linked with the Bulls this week, but Elliott is adamant that they are not interested, even though Paul Anderson is out for the season with a knee injury. "We aren't in the market for a prop," said Elliott. "If I had to, I have a young prop out of the Academy team called Stuart Fielden who I would put into our first team with complete confidence."

That is bad news for anyone clinging to the theory that Bradford, as a team, are starting to grow old together, although Fielden will have to wait a little longer for his debut.

Elliott expects Leeds, under their new coach, Graham Murray, to be more solid this season. "They already have a better shape about them and their defence in their first game against Warrington was very good. I didn't know what a local derby was before I came to Britain, but I know now, because our supporters are always telling me how important it is. I live in Leeds and I want to be able to go out for a paper on Monday."

The Leeds side that will try to make such domestic errands embarrassing is likely to be the one that beat Warrington without too much difficulty. The one doubt concerns the prop forward, Martin Masella, who has been suffering from 'flu. If he is ruled out, Jamie Mathiou will come into the starting line-up and Jamie Field on to the bench.

Comments