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Bradford Bulls star John Bateman aims to mastermind downfall of Keighley Cougars in cup showdown with Dudley Hill
John Bateman is as grounded a teenager as you could wish to meet – but even his imagination can run wild at times.
Bateman was sitting in the Dudley Hill clubhouse with big brother Kyle, talking excitedly about Sunday’s third-round tie at Cougar Park.
Unfortunately for John, 18, he will not be able to be there to support Kyle due to his own playing commitments.
The Bulls are at home to Salford but the highly-rated back-rower has played his part in Hill’s preparations.
“I’m down here regularly and do a lot of the conditioning and fitness training,” says John.
I’ve tried to help them get their fitness levels up and they’ve worked really hard. I’ve been flogging them!John Bateman
“I played here from a young age and have been at the club all the way through before going on to play for Bradford.
“I know most of the lads in the first team and am close mates with a few of them, plus I know a lot of Kyle’s mates here too. I come down on Tuesdays and Thursdays for training, helping out with the conditioning.
“Last year was not about their ability, it was more their fitness levels. They were struggling towards the end of games. I’ve tried to help them get their fitness levels up and they’ve worked really hard. I’ve been flogging them!”
Kyle, 21, plays prop for Hill and is close to his younger brother.
“John’s doing fantastic at the minute – he just needs to keep up the hard work,” says Kyle.
“He’s only halfway there really, he needs to keep going. I just speak to him about where I think he can do better and what he is doing right.
“It’s great that John can help out here and we’re getting good numbers at training. Yes, John flogs us, but we enjoy it.”
Hill claimed a stirring win at Leigh East in the previous round of rugby league’s famous old competition, putting them 80 minutes away from a potential showdown with a Super League outfit.
Yet Jason Demetriou’s star-studded Championship side are overwhelming favourites to progress on Sunday.
“This will be the biggest game of my career by far, especially with it being in the Challenge Cup,” says Kyle, who works at FSD in West Bowling.
“Our dad (John senior) played here and I’ve been coming to the club since I was about eight. I’m 21 now, so it’s a good 13 years.”
Kyle, a lifelong Bulls fan, is understandably proud of his younger sibling’s remarkable rise to prominence.
But John says: “I look up to Kyle because he’s my older brother. I’ve learned most of the things I do now from watching him.
“It’s good to see him play and enjoy his rugby. We live together and have always been really close when we were growing up.
“If I’ve played for Bradford, I’ll ask him how he thought I got on and he’ll give me tips on my game as well. He will come and watch and support me like the rest of my family do.
“At the moment, the Bulls have been on Sky every week and it’s been good to get that exposure to show people what I can do.
“But you don’t need to start falling in love with yourself or forget where you come from. That’s why I come down to Dudley Hill.”
Kyle has been delighted with the Bulls’ recent impressive form, which has encouraged hopes of a genuine renaissance at Odsal.
“I’ve been a Bulls fans since I was a young lad, when my nana and grandad used to take me,” he recalls.
“I’d like to see them get back to where they used to be. They’re playing really well at the moment and hopefully they can keep it going.”
On Sunday’s game, Kyle reasons: “We know we’re underdogs, so we’ve got nothing to lose. Hopefully we can put in a good performance and see what happens.”