AS PAUL Deacon looks back on the achievements of the all-conquering Bulls side who swept all before them, he remembers the contribution of one man in particular.

The man tasked with returning the club to Super League after a relegation that would have been unthinkable in the not-too-distant past.

Bulls head coach Jimmy Lowes.

"Jimmy was a competitor, he wanted to win and he was very passionate," recalled Deacon.

"Sometimes he was very hot-headed, and he lost his head on numerous occasions, but he was a fantastic player and certainly in the top ten of those I ever played with.

"I was lucky enough to play outside him and receive passes off him… there were a few times I wish I had got the ball a bit more often!

"He would stick it up his jumper but I let him know and we still have a good laugh about it now.

"Every time I bump into him, we catch up and reminisce."

The former team-mates will meet again this Sunday as Deacon heads back to Odsal with defending champions Wigan.

The ex-scrum half serves as Shaun Wane's assistant and believes the desire that characterised Lowes as a player will make Bradford a force to be reckoned with in the Championship next season.

Deacon played in all five of the Bulls' consecutive Super League Grand Finals, picking up the Harry Sunderland Trophy as man of the match in 2002.

Having celebrated his testimonial at Odsal in 2008, he joined his home-town club at the end of the 2009 campaign and helped them to Grand Final glory in 2010 and Challenge Cup success the following season.

The 35-year-old Wiganer said: "It is very sad to see Bradford relegated because the club still has a big place in my heart.

"All the money problems were always going to affect them on the field and unfortunately that's what has happened.

"That's the position they are in right now but, knowing Jimmy personally, I'm sure he will be hell-bent on getting them back into the big time and I'm confident he can do that.

"I'm not surprised to see Bradford's form has already picked up since he went in there.

"Being a head coach is a massive challenge for anyone, no matter where you are at, whether you're at the best club or the one at the bottom of the ladder.

"I'm sure Jimmy will do a great job there. He will not leave any stone unturned and he will instil the work ethic that is needed to succeed in this game. I'm sure Bradford will be back."

After retiring, Deacon coached Wigan's under-18s but is now working solely with the first-team and assists Steve McNamara in the England set-up.

"Have I got a desire to become a head coach? Of course, without a doubt," said Deacon.

"I'm still learning my trade. I've only been at it for two-and-a-half years – but I love it.

"People often ask me 'do I miss playing?' but I don't because it's too hard work.

"I still think being around the boys is great because it's a unique kind of atmosphere in the rugby league world.

"It's probably very different to Joe Bloggs on the street when they go in to work."

Despite his affiliation to Wigan, there is no hiding Deacon's lasting affection for Bradford.

"I was so lucky to be in that set-up at Bradford as a young kid because it was a winning culture and the people who were involved in that team were all competitors," he explained.

"Whether that was in the gym doing a fitness test or in games, everyone just wanted to win.

"It was always a competition and for me growing up it was a great culture to be a part of and I learnt a lot. I certainly, without a doubt, think that helped me in my career.

"It's always emotional going back there and I'll never forget the first time I returned as a Wigan player and going into the away dressing room. That was very strange and it will be strange again.

"When I was at the club for a long period of time, we were always competing for trophies and made five straight Grand Finals. I owe all my success to Bradford and I'll never forget that."

John Bateman will return to Odsal for the first time since joining Wigan at the end of last season. The Bradford-born second-rower is enjoying an outstanding debut campaign at the DW Stadium.

Deacon said: "We knew John was a quality player because he had done really well at Bradford.

"It's amazing how young he still is and sometimes you forget that – but he's had a great season so far.

"It seems as though he's enjoying it, I hope he is, because we're enjoying coaching him and having him in our team."

Bateman was expected to be eased into the Wigan side this season but he has barely missed a game.

"I think John carried a few niggles last year and played with those niggles," said Deacon.

"I think we're mindful of not pushing him too far because of his age but he's probably already played more than we thought he would do. He's done so well and is earning his place in the side every week.

"John has got a massive amount of talent and he's so strong in contact, especially for the size of him because he's not the biggest player on the field.

"But he takes some handling and he has got everything – great skills, good footwork, he's strong as a bull and I think his biggest asset is that he's so competitive.

"You put him in a contest and he wants to win – that's what Waney really likes about him.

"John has that competitive streak in him and I think anyone who has that will go a long way in this game."