Rugby: Long run for Pauls

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The Independent Online
CHRIS CAISLEY, the chairman of both the Bradford Bulls and the Super League, has had two Big Ideas this week - one very good, one very bad. First, the good news - especially if you happen to be a supporter of his club. After weeks of denials, Bradford have taken a deep breath and united the Paul brothers. It is six months until the start of next season, but no club will come up with a more exciting piece of recruitment news than bringing Henry Paul across the Pennines to play alongside Robbie in 1999.

Apart from the likelihood of it working superbly on the field, it is a masterstroke in marketing terms. The Bulls, who continue their struggle for a play-off spot at home to Warrington this evening, have been a grim disappointment to their legions of supporters this year. Their style of play has been rumbled and many individuals - including Robbie Paul - have under-achieved.

But never mind all that, folks. Look what we've got for you for next season. If you like your rugby instinctive and unpredictable, then the appearance of the two Pauls in the same club side for the first time is an irresistible prospect.

The trouble is that Caisley and his allies at other Super League clubs want to put the Pauls and their other players on a treadmill. This is the Bad Idea, very bad indeed. Caisley wants Super League clubs to play 30 games next year, plus those in the Challenge Cup and the play-offs. The reasoning is simple: more home games equals more income. But it is also fatally flawed. The Bradford chairman claims the support of all the Super League clubs but there are people at those clubs who can see the flaws. He admits that himself when he says that his own coach, Matthew Elliott, "would like to play 14 games a season. But he recognises that we have a business to run".

"Do you want what Super League have told me to say, or what I really think?" asked another coach, who had better remain nameless, this week. "It's a load of garbage. The reason the standard has gone up this season is that we've been playing once a week and have been able to prepare properly. If we have 30 Super League games all the skills development we do will be out of the window.

"But the person I really feel sorry for is Andy Goodway, the Great Britain coach. He's going to have a player like Andy Farrell playing 30 Super League games, five in the Cup, four in the play-offs and, at the end of all that, he'll be expected to go and play Test matches against Australia and New Zealand."