Bradford Bulls: Wales ace Kear bringing his own fan club to cheer him on against Italy (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Bradford Bulls: Wales ace Elliot Kear bringing his own fan club to cheer him on against Italy
Elliot Kear will not be short of supporters when Wales cross swords with Italy in their World Cup opener at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
“All of Elliot’s friends and family, including his 85-year-old grandmother, are going,” said Kear’s father Gareth, who rarely misses any of his son’s matches.
That the game is in Kear’s home town and part of a double-header alongside the England-Australia tournament opener has merely added to the occasion.
“As a Cardiff lad, it doesn’t get any better than representing Wales at the Millennium Stadium,” said the Bulls winger, who enjoyed a fine 2013 campaign, playing every Super League game and scoring 11 tries.
“I get a lot of stick from the Bradford boys about being Welsh because of my accent but it’s all good banter. If I get picked this weekend it will be the highlight of my career so far.”
Wales coach Iestyn Harris seems certain to deploy Kear in his customary wing berth while Ben Evans could line up in the back row with his twin brother Rhys at full back.
Playing at the Millennium Stadium will not be a new experience for Kear, who joined the Bulls from Crusaders ahead of the 2012 campaign and grew up playing rugby union in South Wales.
The Cardiff-born 24-year-old explained: “I was about 11 when I played in a union cup final for Cardiff schools.
“We lost that and then I played there again when I was about 15 in a Wales Schools cup final.
“Sam Warburton played in that for us, a lot of good players did, and we won that. But it will be nothing compared to this match on Saturday.”
Kear hails from Whitchurch, a plush suburb of Cardiff, and went to Whitchurch High School with British and Irish Lions captain Warburton and Real Madrid star Gareth Bale.
The trio have represented their county in rugby league, rugby union and football respectively and remain in contact through mutual friends.
Kear said: “I never really came to being a professional rugby union player and, as I was turning 18, I went into a trial for Wales rugby league.
“I got into that when I was in sixth form, joined the Academy at Crusaders and then they got into Super League before we all made the move up to Wrexham.”
After Crusaders were forced out of Super League due to financial difficulties, Kear was snapped up by the Bulls and his star has continued to rise.
His hard running style and finishing ability have served the Bulls well and proved wrong those who said he was too small to play professional rugby.
Kear said: “I’ve always been told ‘you’re not big enough, you need to put weight on’ and it’s been the story of my life.
“Mick Potter was a bit like that, telling me to put weight on, but you look at Sam Tomkins and he’s about the same size as me and is one of the best players in the world.
“I think I’ve had a pretty decent season this year and have just proved to a couple of people this year that size isn’t everything.”
Kear says he would like to stay at the Bulls for the foreseeable future and that will mean more long trips north for dad Gareth.
“My dad’s been to virtually every Bulls game this year, bar one or two,” said Kear.
“He’s my biggest fan and my biggest critic as well. He’s done the miles this year to be fair to him and travelled a long way.
“He stays at my house each weekend and it’s good because I get to go for a beer with him after the game.
“He then goes home on a Sunday or a Monday. It’s great to have him supporting me.”
Reaching the knock-out stages of the World Cup is the aim for a Wales side who will be captained by former Bulls star Craig Kopczak.
Kear added: “We’ve got a great coach in Iestyn and a great bunch of players.
“On our day, I think we would give anyone a run for their money. The good thing about Wales is that most of the lads have known each other for the last four or five years.
“I’m not really looking as far ahead as the quarter-finals but I would love us to get there. If we did do it, it would be a great chance to test ourselves against some of the best players in the world.”
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