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Francis Cummins backed to ‘do a fantastic job’ at Bradford Bulls
Few know Francis Cummins better than the man who worked alongside the Bulls coach for several years at Leeds, winning a clutch of Super League titles along the way.
Willie Poching was a team-mate and later a fellow assistant coach of Cummins at Headingley, with the pair serving as right-hand men to Tony Smith and latterly Brian McClennan.
Cummins brought to an end a 17-year stint with Leeds when he joined Bradford as Mick Potter’s assistant two years ago.
Poching, who became reunited with Smith at Warrington and has ambitions to become a head coach himself one day, believes Cummins fully deserves his chance at Odsal.
The 39-year-old Wolves assistant coach said: “I’m delighted for Franny that he has got his hands on a team because he’s been ready for this for a long time.
“He’s been at the Bulls for a couple of years now and will do a fantastic job. He knows the culture and the environment at Bradford, so it’s a big chance to put his spin on things. I’ve no doubt he will make them a better side.”
Cummins and Poching were part of the backroom team when Leeds won three successive Grand Finals between 2007 and 2009 after calling time on successful playing careers at Headingley.
The Bulls coach’s relationship with Poching and Smith remains strong and was the link which brought Matty Blythe to Bradford on a season-long loan.
“We were together as assistants for a good four years at Leeds, working closely, and Franny taught me a lot,” explained Poching.
“He started the year before me and was already the head assistant as I came in as the under-20s coach.
“We worked closely in the same office, in an intense environment, for four years, so we were bound to build a strong relationship. He’s been a massive help to me and that’s why I believe he will be such a good head coach.
“He’s a student of his craft; a student of coaching. Like anyone, he wants to be as good as he possibly can be at his job.
“He goes out to research and meet people – Sir Alex Ferguson was one of them – and I know he’s working hard already to put things in place at Bradford. That’s how he will be throughout his time as head coach of Bradford.”
Both men have learnt from Smith, their Leeds mentor, and Poching has no doubts over Cummins’ ability to conjure a winning formula.
He said: “Regardless of what players Franny has, he’s going to improve them and mould them into a very good team.
“Bradford have undergone a massive change in recent years and losing the likes of Robbie Paul, Lesley Vainikolo, Joe Vagana, Jamie Peacock and Mick Withers was bound to affect them.
“It’s just unfortunate for Bradford that they all left around the same time, so it was a quick changeover.
“They’ve been put to the test in recent years and I’m sure they will come through this rebuilding process.
“Franny is under no illusions about that. I think everyone just needs to be patient and trust in his recruitment of the younger players. I think they will win more than they lose.”
It is worth remembering that Warrington were perennial underachievers for many years until Smith’s arrival.
The former Huddersfield and Leeds boss has presided over a genuine renaissance at the Cheshire club and Poching sees similarities with the way Leeds ended decades of similarly falling short in 2004.
Smith, with Cummins and Poching in his team, guided Leeds to their first championship in 32 years.
Poching said: “Warrington were massive underachievers but that’s all changed now. They’ve got a belief about themselves and a culture is being built at this club where everyone has the right to believe they can achieve.”
Having seen Cummins take the reins at Odsal, Poching admitted: “Have I got ambitions to become a head coach? Yes, definitely. Just like when I started playing, I had ambitions to play first-grade and I did that.
“I’ve started out on a journey in coaching and I’m trying to do my apprenticeship to reach that position. Franny’s appointment at Bradford is encouraging for all aspiring head coaches.”