Clash between Bradford Bulls and Castleford reunites friends in league combat

The Bulls in pre-season action against Castleford. The clubs clash again in this weekend’s Super League opener

The Bulls in pre-season action against Castleford. The clubs clash again in this weekend’s Super League opener

First published in Sport Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Photograph of the Author by , Bradford Bulls Reporter

Daryl Powell and Francis Cummins were team-mates in the Leeds side who lost to Wigan in the inaugural Grand Final of 1998.

Now 16 years on, they are preparing to face each other as rival head coaches in Sunday’s Super League opener.

Bradford host Castleford at the Provident Stadium and Powell and Cummins will be friends reunited once again.

Having played together at Leeds, Powell went on to coach Cummins at Headingley before he was succeeded by Tony Smith in 2003.

Powell then moved across to Leeds’ rugby union operation and enjoyed a long and successful spell with Featherstone before returning to Super League as head coach of Castleford last year.

The 48-year-old said: “I know Franny very well and during my time as Leeds coach I made him captain.

“I got a bit of stick for that, because he played on the wing, but I saw him as a pretty mature individual who knew the game well.

“Those sort of players usually rise through the ranks and end up becoming coaches themselves.

“After he retired from playing, Franny did a really good job at Leeds as an assistant coach and the players spoke very highly of him.

“He then moved to Bradford, did well under Mick Potter and then became a head coach in his own right.

“He’s still pretty young now for a head coach and, under a fair bit of adversity, he’s done a really good job at Bradford.”

Powell believes Cummins benefited from the apprenticeship he served at Leeds, working under Smith and then Brian McClennan before moving to Odsal in 2010.

“It’s important that you spend some time learning your trade and it’s something I didn’t really have when I got the job at Leeds,” said Powell.

“But Franny spent that time as an assistant, which really helped him, and Tony Smith is obviously a smart coach, so he picked up a fair bit there.

“It has really helped him as he has moved into a head coaching position. Like I said, he’s had a lot of adversity to deal with and it’s not just one administration he has been through now but two.

“It makes it really difficult when you’re worrying about your livelihood but you’ve still got to go in and do your job.

“You have to make sure that you’re focused and that you keep the players focused. That’s a tough thing to do but I think Franny has done an excellent job in keeping his team focused.”

Powell came out on top against his old team-mate at Wheldon Road last season as Castleford claimed a 46-34 victory which finally killed off Bradford’s play-off hopes.

The Tigers then marched to a 66-10 victory at Odsal earlier this month in the Bulls’ third and final pre-season friendly; not that Powell is reading too much into that.

The Ackworth-born coach said: “What happened in the pre-season game will only make Bradford more determined to get a result this weekend. We know Franny will have them focused and ready to go but we’re looking forward to it.

“They have some very good forwards and several dangerous backs, such as Jarrod Sammut and Lee Gaskell, who can really cause you problems with their pace.”

Castleford made notable progress under Powell last season after he replaced Ian Millward. He looks to have recruited wisely during the off-season, bringing in tried and trusted performers such as Ashley Gibson, Luke Dorn and former Bulls captain Andy Lynch.

“There is some added pressure this year with the bottom two getting relegated and it’s going to be tough,” said Powell.

“Most clubs will be aiming for the top eight. We can say we think we can achieve that but you don’t know until you get into the season and your team starts performing on a consistent basis.

“There is some pressure there and I think the next two years are crucial for the sport with the restructure of the game.

“With the new Sky television deal and new title sponsors having been announced, hopefully we can start talking about rugby league in a positive way.

“Not just from a club perspective but from across the whole of Super League and, indeed, the wider game.”

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