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Craig Kopczak not Bradford Bulls’ main focus – Francis Cummins
Francis Cummins insists his players will not single out Craig Kopczak for any special treatment on Sunday as he prepares to face the Bulls for the first time since his controversial departure.
The homegrown prop from Eccleshill stunned Bulls fans and team-mates when he terminated his contract with the club shortly before the final-round match away to Catalan Dragons last September.
It was believed he had been offered a deal with Huddersfield Giants, who he has since joined on a three-year contract after a financial settlement between the clubs was agreed.
After the trauma of last year’s cash crisis at Bradford, Kopczak’s decision to join the ambitious Giants was seen as safeguarding his young family’s future.
But it was the fact the 26-year-old Wales international neglected to inform his clubmates of his decision which raised the most eyebrows.
Bulls coach Cummins said: “All I know is that I turned up at the airport to fly to Catalan and Craig wasn’t there. The players didn’t know until they were actually checking in and getting on the plane.
“I’m sure the players felt let down, and it was a strange situation for everyone, but you’ve got to move on. We definitely won’t be going into this weekend’s game thinking ‘we’ll chase Koppy around the field’.
“I’m sure that whenever we come up against someone who used to play for the Bulls there is always a bit of an ego at work. But we need a good performance and that’s the be-all and end-all for us.”
Following Omar Khan’s purchase of the club last September, all Bradford employees received a letter from administrator Brendan Guilfoyle informing them of the transfer of assets and undertakings from the P&A Partnership to new company OK Bulls Limited.
But Kopczak’s agent Martin Shuttleworth rang Mick Potter two days before the trip to Catalan to say his client had informed Guilfoyle that he had terminated his contract, which ran until the end of 2013, and was effectively finished as a Bulls player.
Shuttleworth confirmed that Kopczak had taken legal advice, drawing on legislation used in the Glasgow Rangers case, namely the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations 2006 (TUPE).
Cummins said: “We’ve just got to play our game and if there is a weakness somewhere then we’ve got to go and find it. That might not necessarily be Craig, it might be somebody else.
“You can’t hold grudges and, while there’s definitely a bit of spice this weekend, I’m not into burning up any emotional energy.”
Cummins will check on the fitness of joint-captain Matt Diskin before naming his 19-man squad later today.
The former Leeds hooker sustained a severe dead leg during last week’s defeat to St Helens but is hopeful of being passed fit for Sunday’s game.
This will see former Bulls prop Stuart Fielden line up against his erstwhile employers as a Huddersfield player for the first time.
* John Bateman made his comeback last night as the Bulls Academy lost 32-24 at Huddersfield.
The 19-year-old back-rower played around 30 minutes as he closes in on a first-team return, while Oliver Roberts went off with a shoulder injury.