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Francis Cummins wants Bradford Bulls to double up in league and cup
Francis Cummins believes the Bulls can not only stay in Super League but also launch a sustained assault on the Tetley’s Challenge Cup.
Bradford are expected to breeze past Championship One part-timers Oldham in tomorrow’s fourth-round home tie.
But Cummins insists he is not prioritising top-flight survival over progress in rugby league’s famous old knockout competition – he wants success on both fronts.
The Bulls head coach said: “I’m not thinking ‘at the top of my list is surviving relegation’ because I’m fully confident in this group of players that we can stay up, even in the position we are in, and get better and better.
“At the moment I’m looking for a little bit more momentum and confidence from this weekend’s game – but while you’re in it you want to win it.
“The Challenge Cup takes our minds off being on minus two points so we can focus on something else for a week and get what we can out of it.
“The bigger picture is that I’m not looking too far ahead, I’m just looking to keep this good feeling going and continue the momentum.
“Eventually, one of the teams outside the top four gets to the Challenge Cup final. Why not this year?
“We just need to get the job done and make sure we are in the fifth-round draw on Sunday.
“We were able to get some good ball and show some real skill last week at Widnes after we had made some metres and gained some decent field position.
“We were probably a decision or tap back away from winning the game, so it’s just about building on that.”
Cummins is poised to hand debuts to Jamal Fakir and fit-again Dale Ferguson, while rookie prop Sam Bates looks set to feature too.
The Bulls boss played in five Challenge Cup finals during his long career at Leeds – the first as a 17-year-old in 1994 and the last against Bradford in 2003 – and he admits he is an old romantic.
“It’s still the showcase of our game and gains the focus of the national media, especially with the final being played in London,” said Cummins.
“It has the tradition and the history, so it’s a great opportunity for everyone to make their mark on the competition. I’ve experienced it both as a player and a coach and it’s still special.”
Cummins was barely out of school when he played in the 1994 final at Wembley, which Leeds lost to Wigan.
He recalled: “I was 17 and it was a bit of a whirlwind. I still remember bits of it – I seem to remember all the freebies that we got … new boots, trainers and everything! It’s something that they can never take away from you.
“To beat London in 1999 was great and was third time lucky for me. We started off really slowly but eventually ran away with it and to get a winners’ medal was huge.
“I had lost in a couple of finals and a number of semi-finals, so it was getting a bit frustrating. To finally get that victory was brilliant.”
Cummins, meanwhile, says he has respect for Oldham and will not underestimate Scott Naylor’s side.
“Scott and I have spoken about maybe getting something going with Oldham further down the line in terms of a partnership,” he said.
“With the way the game is, we have a group of 20-year-olds who can’t play anywhere, so maybe that’s another avenue for us.
“If we get off to a good start this weekend then there are things we can do as the game progresses – but we won’t be underestimating Oldham.”
The Bulls coach, having signed Fakir this month, said the search for further new recruits was ongoing.
“There are always things happening and we are trawling all over for players, including the NRL market, but I’m not expecting anything else to be done before the Salford game next week,” said Cummins.
“But with the ownership having been sorted and Jamal having signed, it feels like things are going in the right direction.
“I know things are happening here. A few things have dropped in place but hopefully there will be a few more now.”
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