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Saints defeat at Bradford Bulls still haunts Jamie Foster
When St Helens were beaten at Odsal on March 17, victory was achieved with the kind of spirit which came to characterise the Bulls during 2012.
The celebrations, on the pitch and in the stands, at the end of the televised clash were unmistakable.
The result marked the Bulls’ first home win of the season and Saints’ fourth straight loss – their worst run in living memory.
Later that evening, one man sat on a sofa in St Helens with his head in his hands, staring into oblivion.
Jamie Foster will never forget his last-ever appearance for his home-town club.
He was placed on report for accidentally kicking Elliott Whitehead in the head after he had scored the Bulls’ first try and then allowed the ball to bounce, gifting a second score to Karl Pryce.
The 22-year-old winger said: “It was a game I wish I could forget but it still haunts me every now and again.
“I remember going home that night and I just sat on the couch. I held my head in my hands and I didn’t know where I was going.
“It took my grandad to come in and say ‘you’ve had one bad game, the year before you were top points scorer in Super League’.
“You can’t let things like that bother you because every player in the world has bad games, it’s just a matter of bouncing back.
“What happened at Odsal was the kind of moment in your career that can spur you on. They make you want to get up in the morning and go again.”
The result led to coach Royce Simmons being ushered out of Langtree Park and for Foster the ramifications were similarly grave.
He was banished into the under-20s side by caretaker coaches Mike Rush and Keiron Cunningham and basically frozen out.
Foster, handed his Saints debut by Mick Potter in 2010 before appearing in two Grand Finals, felt harshly treated.
He said: “I struggled to see where Mike Rush was coming from in some regards.
“I sat at a table with him and asked him why I wasn’t playing. He didn’t really give me an answer and that was pretty tough.
“I signed on a scholarship with Saints when I was 11 years old, played 60 games and I let a ball bounce at Bradford, then suddenly I’m not playing.
“If that was maybe a senior player earning a big wage, I don’t think he would have sat there and had the same conversation.”
That fateful night at Odsal could have been career-defining for Foster.
Instead, salvation arrived in July when Hull FC coach Peter Gentle took him on loan for the rest of the season.
He played nine consecutive games, scoring five tries and kicking 45 goals, amassing an impressive tally of 110 points to help Hull reach the play-offs.
Foster said: “I didn’t just do it off my own back and say ‘I’m going to change my whole game’.
“I had to speak to certain people and pick out what I wanted to take on board.
“That’s what I did and I just got my head down. I made my debut in the Hull derby at Craven Park and it went uphill from there.”
The penultimate round of the season saw Foster return to the ground where he had suffered six months earlier.
Again the match was televised live but this time the Bulls were a distinct second-best, losing 70-6 in the first match since the club’s change of ownership.
Foster scored two tries and kicked nine goals.
He said with a smile: “I’ve never been as nervous before a game because of what had happened at St Helens.
“There were 12,000 people watching and I knew a lot of them would have been at the Saints game in March.
“It was a pretty comfortable game to play in, I scored a good few points, but the first half an hour was tough.
“I remember Luke Gale put a bomb up and I thought ‘I might just let this one bounce’.
“But then I decided ‘I’d better catch this to save my career!’
“I definitely exorcised a few demons that day.”
Bulls fans will hope for similar returns from Foster in 2013 after he joined the club on a one-year deal.
He said: “This is a massive club and it’s up to us to bring the good times back now.”
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