Cup tie at Bradford Bulls a big test for Naylor against former club (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Cup tie at Bradford Bulls a big test for Scott Naylor against former club
Almost 11 years ago, Scott Naylor helped the Bulls to Challenge Cup glory with a memorable win over Leeds in the final at the Millennium Stadium.
Francis Cummins lined up on the wing for the Rhinos as Bradford defeated their arch-rivals in a fraught 22-20 victory.
Now the pair will cross swords again in the famous old competition, only this time as rival head coaches as Naylor’s Oldham Roughyeds head to Odsal for Sunday’s fourth-round tie.
“I absolutely loved my time at Bradford,” said 42-year-old Naylor.
“I owe them everything because it’s a great club with a lot of fantastic people and phenomenal fans.
“It was a pleasure to play there and I learnt an enormous amount from working under Matthew Elliott and Brian Noble.”
A rugged centre in a star-studded Bulls team, Naylor joined the club from Salford ahead of the 1999 campaign and won every trophy on offer during a glittering five-year stay.
He cites the 2001 Grand Final win over Wigan as his career highlight but said his abiding memories were of the club’s internal culture.
Naylor, who hails from Leigh, explained: “It wasn’t just about the team or the 25 lads in the squad.
“It was the coaching staff, the marketing department, the people who served the food, Fred Robinson the kitman; it was everything about the place.
“It just seemed to be the right people at the right time and it all clicked together.
“We had top players such as Henry and Robbie Paul but Brian McDermott was respected just as much because of the work that he did that people didn’t see.
“He was the first person to put his hand up when we were in trouble.
“Macca would take two or three drives in a set and Tevita Vaikona was the same, along with Stuart Spruce and Bernard Dwyer.
“They were tough, quality rugby players and we all looked at each other as equals.
“I think that would be a good thing for the Bradford lads now - a team ethic of doing it for each other.”
At the end of an injury-disrupted 2003 campaign, Naylor returned to Salford, where he ended his playing days and embarked on a coaching career with the Red Devils before taking charge of Oldham in September 2012.
Many of his former team-mates such as McDermott (Leeds), Paul Anderson (Huddersfield), Paul Deacon (Wigan), James Lowes (Leeds Carnegie) and Mike Forshaw (Sale Sharks) are now coaching.
“It must be something in the DNA of people who have played at Bradford,” said Naylor.
“Brian Mac was a very funny lad and his background in the Royal Marines got him massive respect.
“He wasn’t the loudest in terms of laughing and joking but when he did, it was worth being around for.
“He was a great lad, a great person and a great leader of people.
“I always had a soft spot for Henry Paul – he was my kind of lad as he loved winning rugby matches and having a beer afterwards.”
Naylor, who has ambitions to coach in Super League, speaks to his top-flight contemporaries about taking players on loan to his Championship One outfit.
He said: “Sometimes I’ve phoned Franny up and asked him for a centre, prop or loose forward but he’s not had any available due to the size of his squad.
“However, we’ve had a few conversations and it’s good to keep in touch.
“If Franny, Baloo or Brian Mac needed to get a player game time, then it’s nice for them to think of me.”
Oldham, who missed out on promotion last season when they lost to Rochdale Hornets in the play-off final, are a young team who play on a part-time basis and train three times a week.
Any chance of an upset this weekend is slim but Naylor is clearly enjoying his job and wants his players to do likewise on Sunday.
“I’m the head coach and I work with a great bunch of lads, many of whom are still at university,” he said.
“It’s a good club to be at and things are going in the right direction. It takes up plenty of time but I don’t mind because rugby is my life.
“I’m learning a lot along the way and I would like to get back into Super League at some point.
“But I signed a two-year deal at Oldham and I’m not the sort of person to walk away.
“After missing out on promotion last season, I have unfinished business here.
“I’m looking forward to my lads playing against Super League opposition so that they understand what that level is all about.”
Naylor is hoping the Bulls can survive relegation from Super League and is a confirmed admirer of Cummins.
“Franny’s very well respected in the game and a lot of people talk highly of his ideas and coaching methods,” he said.
“They’ve got the right person in charge to get them out of trouble – they just need more players now.
“It’s going to be a long time before Bradford become what they were again but everything is there for it to happen.
“The fans are obviously there and, if they win a few more games and start up moving up the table, they will come back in greater numbers. It’s a snowball effect.”
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