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Bradford Bulls link helps safeguard West Bowling's future
West Bowling are celebrating after the Bulls came to their aid in a new partnership that will see the amateur club take up residence at Odsal on match-days.
With junior teams ranging from under-sevens to under-18s and two open-age sides, Bowling have around 300 players on their books.
But establishing a regular home has proved difficult in recent seasons, raising fears that some or all of the club’s teams may even fold as there was no facility large enough to house them all.
Those fears have now been allayed after the Bulls offered Bowling changing-room facilities and use of the Coral Stand for post-match presentations and regular social events.
Ultimately, all Bowling’s junior sides will head to Odsal after home matches from either the adjacent Odsal village green or Emsleys Rec on Manchester Road.
The link-up stems from new Bulls owner Omar Khan’s desire to open the club up to the Bradford community, and will allow some of the city’s best junior talent to come under the watchful eye of the Super League outfit.
Bradford forward Elliott Whitehead progressed through the amateur ranks at Bowling and regularly trains and coaches the club’s first team.
Bulls kitman and groundsman Leigh Beattie also serves as Bowling’s first-team coach and Khan is delighted to strengthen the links between the clubs.
He said: “West Bowling are a massive part of amateur rugby league in the city and this is a great opportunity to help safeguard their future.
“Clubs such as West Bowling can provide the next generation of Bradford Bulls stars.”
Bowling junior chairman Martin Tordoff has enjoyed a 30-year association with the club after pulling on his boots for them as a ten-year-old.
He admits there could be a few “teething problems” to begin with but feels the partnership could provide the blueprint for other Super League clubs to follow.
Tordoff, from Wibsey, said: “The Bulls have got an additional set of changing rooms near to the ticket office and car park.
“The under-seven to 11s are using those changing rooms and walking across the car park to the playing field.
“The rest of the junior teams are using Emsleys Rec on Manchester Road but we all travel back to the Coral Stand for the after-match presentations and food.
“It’s a massive opportunity which we could not afford to miss because we don’t know where it might lead.
“I would also like to say thank you to Clayton ARLFC, who have helped us out massively in keeping our teams together in the interim of going to the Bulls. Without Dave Picknall’s help I’m sure we would have lost some teams already.
“We’re very grateful also to the Bulls and how they have opened themselves up to the community since Omar Khan took over and are looking forward to the future together.
“A lot of our players have been on the academy books at the Bulls, such Nathan Conroy and Kyle Moore.
“We had six of our under-17s there and two who have just been selected for the BARLA Great Britain team in Luke Robinson and Josh Hattle.
“Then you have the likes of Stuart Reardon and Elliott Whitehead, who played for Bowling.”
Bulls coach Francis Cummins said: “This is a massive gesture from the club to help safeguard West Bowling’s future.
“It will give them the stability to kick on now and provides an opportunity in invest in a lot of young people in the city.”