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Jon Callard kicks off with Bradford Bulls
Jon Callard gave a kicking masterclass to several Bulls players at their Tong training headquarters yesterday.
The renowned rugby union coach has worked with leading players in both codes such as Kevin Sinfield, Danny Brough, Jonny Wilkinson and Owen Farrell.
He is currently working for the Rugby Football Union as a national Academy coach, honing the kicking skills of the country’s finest talent.
Callard became acquainted with Bulls coach Francis Cummins during their respective careers at Leeds Rugby, when Callard helped Sinfield to become a formidable kicker.
Harrogate-based Callard, 46, took an hour-long practical session in technique for place-kicking and goal-kicking with Brett Kearney, Curtis Naughton, Jarrod Sammut, Danny Addy, Adam O’Brien, Heath L’Estrange and Matt Diskin, although Jamie Foster watched from the sidelines as he is carrying a slight knock.
Former Bath and England full back Callard said: “I know Franny from when I was at Leeds Tykes and he was at the Rhinos and I worked with Kevin Sinfield.
“I did about three or four weeks with Kevin before Leeds played St Helens in the 2003 Challenge Cup semi-final at Huddersfield.
“He had to kick a goal from the touchline to take it to extra time. He slotted it and the Rhinos made the final, losing to Bradford.
“I’ve followed league quite a lot since I was at Leeds. I realise the importance of the kicking game and the 40-20.
“My job is to give the players a better understanding of what they do and the mechanics of kicking, so they can become better kickers themselves.
“Not just during the week in training but in games as well. It’s about regular practice and thinking for themselves on the field.”
Callard believes he will reap the benefits of seeing the Bulls’ set-up at close hand.
“I’ve enjoyed coming to speak to Franny to refresh my mind about defence and the development processes in place for rugby league,” he said.
“It’s an interesting time at Bradford after the trials and tribulations of last year. Out of adversity come heroes.
“It’s always good to have the knowledge of these kind of experiences and relate them to what you do because you never know what walk of life you’re going to end up in.
“I love coaching kicking and I love seeing people take it on board. It’s like taking a kid, putting them on a bike and watching them go. It’s the same principle.”
The players who took part spoke of benefiting from the session and Cummins will invite Callard back for a repeat early in the new year.
The Bulls coach said: “I knew that Jon had done work with Kevin Sinfield and that’s enough for me.
“But I’d obviously seen he had done other work with other people and I want my players to invest in their careers.
“Kicking is a huge part of both codes and this is the time, during pre-season, to make that investment.
“The players have done it on what was really their day off – and they have done it in the bitter cold.
“If you get a hooker who can kick then it affects what the opposition back three can do.
“We need to be able kick well for distance because it can be the best play of your set and get you on the front foot.
“If you want to move forward, you’ve got look at other sports and rugby union is similar in lots of ways but also so different.
“I want the kicking expertise here at Bradford and my staff and I am all going to go out and look at different sports as well. That’s how we’ll learn and take our game forward.”