Ultimate warrior battles for pride

Rugby League: Dave Hadfield hears how Dean Bell intends to ring the changes at Leeds
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The Independent Online
DEAN BELL returned from a long trip down memory lane to take part in today's Regal Trophy quarter-final. The Leeds coach went back to New Zealand to launch his biography, an inspiring tome called Ultimate Warrior, a celebration of tenacity, determination, consistency - and many other qualities that Leeds lack. When he sits down to watch the battle against his first English club, Carlisle, this afternoon, Bell will be looking for signposts to the future.

His team gave him plenty to brood over on the long flight home by losing 47-8 at Warrington, a defeat that had Bell muttering darkly about lack of character. Waiting for him on his return was a video of another embarrassing loss, 29-10 at Halifax last Sunday.

After those results, the visit of a Second Division club, albeit one that accounted for Castleford in the second round, could be seen as a little light relief, but Bell is determined that it will not be treated that way. "We have to get some pride back, and if that's not motivation enough for them then nothing is, because nobody can have enjoyed the atmosphere around here for the last couple of weeks," he says.

Two obvious, if partial, solutions to Leeds' chronic lack of grit suggest themselves. He could make them work harder for their very handsome pay packets, but Bell is adamant that their training is tough enough. "There isn't too much wrong with our preparation," he insists. "It's our application."

So, if these players cannot live up to the standards Bell exemplified and now demands, he will have to bring in new blood. If only it were as simple as that. "We need personnel changes, but there is no money in the bank," Bell explains.

Leeds always say that, of course, and it is only a few months ago that they were putting together a pounds 2m package in the vain hope of enticing Jonah Lomu. It does seem, however, that any arrivals will have to be balanced by departures - and it is not easy to unload well-paid, underachieving players.

Deals are being discussed, some of which might initially horrify the Headingley faithful, and dramatic changes are on the way. Today, however, Leeds must show that their woeful fallibility ever since they beat Wigan five weeks ago does not extend to giving underdogs their day in knockout competitions.

Bell first arrived in England as a self-confessed wild young player in 1982 to play for the Border club. Since then, his father, Cameron, has coached the club and, along with Wigan's, Bell looks first for the Carlisle result on a Sunday night.

There will be no room for sentiment at Headingley today, though, because he will be looking for evidence, both individual and collective, of the same cold-eyed, unpitying application to the job that took him to the top.

That will take them safely into the Regal Trophy semi-finals. Anything less would be the ultimate humiliation for the Ultimate Warrior.