THE messages flooding Facebook from around the world showed the mark Stuart Duffy has made at the Bulls through a period that has seen the very best and worst of times.

He retired this week on health grounds a day shy of his 23rd anniversary at the club.

Past players, coaches and friends in the game were quick to show their appreciation to the one constant through so many ups and downs.

And yet Duffy revealed he had no real urge to join the Bulls when the chance first arose in 1998.

Recommended by former Leeds colleague Debbie Charlton for the role of media manager, he attended the interview with chief executive Gary Tasker with no high hopes.

“I was at a bit of a low ebb at the time at Leeds but came to the interview not really expecting to take the job,” recalled Duffy, who had been involved at Headingley for nine years.

“It was just really to see what happened and what I could go back to Leeds and tell them.

“But as soon as I met Gary, I knew within five minutes that if he offered me the job, I would take it. His personality came across really well – and we’re still big friends today.”

Matthew Elliott was the coach at the time and Chris Caisley the ambitious chairman. Duffy has seen many come and go since.

From winning three Grand Finals, two Challenge Cups and three World Club Challenges to almost going out of business, the 72-year-old has ridden the Odsal rollercoaster.

“You can never buy those good times,” he said. “They are so special with the people that you shared them with.

“We had some great success and the crowds were so big. Twice we averaged 15,000 but we worked very hard for it and did a lot of good marketing.

“I was a Leeds supporter when I was younger but that soon changed when you saw the effort people here were putting in every day.

“I remember getting beaten in the Challenge Cup semi-final in 1999 to Leeds at Huddersfield. Iestyn Harris said to me that I couldn’t lose whatever the result – but I was absolutely gutted because of how hard everyone had worked to get there.”

On the flipside, there have been the financial meltdowns, administrations, and the real worry that the club might never recover.

January 3, 2017 is etched in Duffy’s memory as the lowest point. Just months after stepping up to general manager after Robbie Hunter Paul and Steve Ferres resigned, he feared that would be it.

“The solicitor from the administrators came into the office and told us that at 12.15pm it was going into liquidation.

“Everybody just went home while I stayed for two days after that, paid by the administrator, to look after the place.

“At that point, I thought we had really gone because there was nothing left.

“I’d expected it to get bought out of administration as it had been before. But the longer it dragged on, the worse it got and it was awful for the staff.

“I then went away on holiday and the RFL rang me when I came back to say Andrew Chalmers had got the club.

“But they were difficult times – it’s not nice to stand up in front of players and tell them they were not getting paid.”

The Bulls he leaves now are in a much more solid state. Going well in the Championship and with a return to Odsal imminent, Duffy feels they are in the best position in years.

“Andrew Chalmers has been much maligned but he did take the club up from nothing. It was just a name, it was finished and the stadium boarded up.

“He got us back into the Championship before these people came in.

“We’ve got the right owners with the club at heart. Nigel Wood, Mark Sawyer and Adam Fogerty are rugby people who know what they are doing.

“They are sensible business people as well. Bills are getting paid on time and it’s a good atmosphere at the club.

“There will be some stumbles along the way but we’ve got a good coach in John Kear and assistant Mark Dunning as well.”

Kear was Duffy’s 10th coach at the club – and there is some personal pride at getting such an experienced head on board. Duffy had floated the question in a chat at Perth airport at the end of the World Cup in Australia in 2017.

He will watch Kear’s attempts to steer the Bulls back to Super League from the stands after deciding it was time to put health first.

Duffy suffers from an aortic stenosis – a disease in the heart valve – which he may have had for life.

But a doctor warned him 12 years ago that surgery may be needed at some point and his most recent tests showed that the condition was getting worse.

He has an angiogram booked in the coming weeks to x-ray the blood vessels and has been told to take it easy.

“It was a hard decision to walk away but we made it fairly quickly.

“You can’t work in professional sport and not have any stress. I won’t miss having to get up at 6.15am on a Saturday to get to Tong to test everybody’s temperature.

“But I won’t lose my passion for the club and will still go to as many home games as I can. The Bulls will always be my team.”