Prolific former Bradford Bulls ace Whitehead thrusts himself into England contention (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Former Bradford Bulls ace Whitehead has no regrets about move to Catalan Dragons as career continues to blossom
Elliott Whitehead is in contention for a place on the plane to Australia and New Zealand this autumn if he can maintain his rich vein of form
Former Bulls star Elliott Whitehead is targeting a place in the England squad after emerging as one of Super League’s most in-form players.
The 24-year-old forward, who quit his hometown club last June, has scored nine tries in as many appearances this season.
When Catalan arrive at Odsal for tomorrow's Challenge Cup fifth-round tie, he will aim to show Bulls fans what they are missing.
Whitehead said: “When I moved here last year, I felt like I was in a comfort zone and had gone stale at Bradford.
“I’m just enjoying my rugby again, both training and playing, and have learnt quite a lot since I came here.
“My game has improved a lot and I’m scoring a few tries off the back of what the forwards are doing. I think I just needed a bit of confidence and I’m now reaping the benefits.”
Whitehead represented the England Knights last year but could make the senior squad for the end-of- season tour to Australia and New Zealand.
He added: “I’m not going to say ‘I should be in the England squad’ and then be left disappointed.
“But it would be a massive achievement for me to get picked after coming here midway through last season.
“Playing for England would be a privilege so I’m going to be doing my best all year.”
As Whitehead flourishes at Catalan, Bradford lie bottom of the table and head into tomorrow’s match on the back of seven straight Super League defeats.
Whitehead added: “It’s very sad because they’re my hometown club and every week I look out for their results.
“I always want them to do well, although I don’t want them to jump above us because I’m a Catalan player now.
“I’ve got some good mates there and I’m sure they have got enough quality there to turn it around and stay up.
“I do miss playing for my hometown club but at the same time I feel I did the right thing for my career by moving to Catalan.”
Laurent Fraysinnous’ men were thumped 56-14 at Wakefield on March 9 and a scheduled week in England was cancelled.
They have since rediscovered their form and arrive at Odsal on the back of four straight wins.
Whitehead said: “After we played Wakefield we flew home and as a team we sat down and were honest with each other.
“We said that if someone makes a mistake on the field then the other 12 players will be there to help the player who messed up.
“It worked for us because we went to St Helens on the Friday and performed a lot better than we had in the first four games.
“Then we played Huddersfield the week after and got our first win, which was very pleasing.
“We all went into that match believing that we could beat Huddersfield and have managed to regain some confidence and it’s paying off, so we’ve been building ever since.
“In our first five games we didn’t make over 1,000 metres. Now we’re hitting between 1,300 and 1,400 metres.”
Whitehead lives in an apartment in the picturesque resort of Canet and is loving life in the south of France.
He said: “I’ve got my own place on the beach and I play a lot of golf, so it’s a good lifestyle and I’m close to the boys here.
“We eat together all the time and I’ve learnt little bits of French, although I do miss Bradford sometimes.
“I feel like I’ve matured a lot and am more independent now. I’ve learnt to cook a lot more dishes as opposed to sticking something in the microwave.
“It’s hard work at times, though, and living on my own has made me realise what my mum used to do for me.
“When we travel over for away games I always go home to see my mum and my missus.
“It’s good to do that and to catch up with my mates as they all come to the games and support me.”
On this weekend’s game, Whitehead added: “Bradford have some smart players like Luke Gale and Brett Kearney and some big forwards like Jamal Fakir, who I played with at Catalan and I believe will be a very good signing.
“I’ve played with a lot of those boys and they have added quality players such as Lee Gaskell and Dale Ferguson.
“If we cut out our errors and penalties and stick to our gameplan we have a chance.
“Morgan Escare has been playing well for us and he’s always there in support.
“The guy is probably the quickest player I’ve ever played with and he’s so quick off the mark.
“He has some crazy speed; one minute he’s next to you and the next minute he’s over the try-line.
“Zeb Taia and Louis Anderson have been playing well and I’ve learned a lot from them.
“Leon Pryce has been playing well for us at six alongside Thomas Bosc, guiding us around the field.
“But we know it won’t be the same Bradford team that lost to Wigan. Anything can happen in a Challenge Cup tie.”
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