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Huddersfield employee Robbie Hunter-Paul insists Giants come before Bradford Bulls – in head if not heart
Robbie Hunter-Paul’s affiliation to the Bulls is not even up for debate, but he will have decidedly mixed loyalties on Sunday at Huddersfield.
The Odsal legend works as the Giants’ business development manager and will be on duty this weekend when Mick Potter’s men are in town.
A Huddersfield side enjoying a mini-renaissance under former Bradford prop Paul Anderson will provide stiff opposition for the Bulls, who can ill afford any slip-ups in their remaining three games if they are to make the Super League play-offs.
Hunter-Paul will remain ultra-professional but he cannot hide his abiding affection for the club where he spent well over a decade.
“Officially there are no split loyalties whatsoever, but emotionally it’s a different thing,” said the 36-year-old.
“It’s a massive West Yorkshire derby and both teams have everything to play for.
“I’ve seen a solidarity among the Bulls in the last few weeks, not just the players but the entire Bradford community.
“The Giants have got back to winning ways in the past couple of weeks after a tough couple of months.
“We now have not only a place in the play-offs to look forward to but also an opportunity to secure a home draw. As we all know, that’s a massive advantage.
“When you look at it on paper, the Bulls have the potential to get into the top eight, despite the adversity they’ve been through.
“Everyone knows that the Bulls will have a big following behind them and that’s a massive bonus for the game itself. The energy within the stadium should be fantastic.”
Few can forget Hunter-Paul’s contribution to the Bulls during a glorious 12-year spell.
He arrived in Bradford from Auckland as an 18-year-old in July 1994 and became synonymous with the Bulls' success on and off the pitch.
He has been left highly impressed with the way in which Potter has rallied his troops at a time of crisis.
The Bulls remain serious play-off contenders – despite being docked six points for entering administration.
“Luke Gale has impressed me with the way he’s moving people around and providing options for the team,” said Hunter-Paul.
“Last week against Hull KR, Jamie Langley showed some of the potential that he’s always been capable of.
“Elliott Whitehead has been an outstanding young player for the past couple of seasons.
“Brett Kearney is another player to come into his own and has been scoring tries for fun in the past few weeks.
“It’s always good to have a smart full back who knows how to get in the right place at the right time.
“I think he makes a better full back than he does a half-back. But the fact that he has the ball-handling skills of a half-back gives him another dimension.
“Heath L’Estrange is another man who is really getting the Bulls firing. He started the game excellently last week and kept the opposition on the back foot.
“Every time there was a slow marker he capitalised on it. That played a big part in taking the energy out of Hull KR’s forward pack.
“It’s a dangerous time for the Giants to be playing the Bulls. They have a lot of emotion driving them in playing through this adversity and their players are all hitting their straps too.
“I think that makes it all the more exciting. Bradford have certainly got a great chance of making the eight.”
Hunter-Paul’s autobiography - Robbie: Rugby Warrior – is due to be published next week and extracts will be printed in next Thursday’s Telegraph & Argus.
His role at the Giants has seen him reunited with a former Bradford team-mate in coach Anderson, who recently succeeded Nathan Brown.
Hunter-Paul said: “Baloo has made some big changes early on. He’s walked into the environment with a big stick in his hand.
“He has said ‘this is how it’s going to be and if you don’t like it, then come and have a word with me – but I’m bigger than all of you’.
“Those weren’t his actual words but he’s made it clear that if you don’t like it then you know where the door is.
“We’ve got some exciting young players down here and I think Baloo knows that and is excited by the challenge of maximising that talent.”
* Robbie will be signing copies of his book at Odsal in the marquee from 12.30pm until kick-off on Sunday, September 2 ahead of the visit of Hull FC.
A donation from sales of the book on the day will be given to the Bulls Hardship Fund.