Bulls Bulletin – From the Top by Graham Lowe (co-owner)

THE very first day I turned up at Central Park for my new job as Wigan’s coach was a day I’ll never forget, because it was a lesson given to me by a fan. And fans are the same everywhere.

It was a cold and rainy day and as I approached the office through the car park I was stopped by an elderly fella in a flat cap.

He said “are you our new Wigan coach?” to which I proudly replied I was.

He then said, and I think this is word for word, “two things lad, get us to Wembley and also beat St Helens. If you don’t, you can f*** off”.

I thought to myself, gee, he’s taking things a bit serious.

Little did I know at that time what winning the Challenge Cup meant!

The drama, excitement, pageantry, history and opportunity of playing in the final of the RL Challenge Cup starts for the Bulls today at 3pm at Odsal Stadium.

The visitors and opponents for this round are West Wales Raiders who have one mission in mind and that is to ruin the day for the Bulls fans.

Having had the privilege throughout my career as a coach of winning at all levels of our game and holding many trophies up high, it is the Challenge Cup, that holds a special place in my heart.

The Challenge Cup is a ‘dream come true’ maker because on any given day, David can beat Goliath.

Knockout footy is a very different kettle of fish to the weekly grind of the normal league season and it offers each club playing the game a special place in history if they can win it.

The Bulls are fortunate in having coach John Kear, who coached Sheffield and Hull through to win Challenge Cup finals. He understands how close and at the same time, far away, the thrill of it all is.

To be honest, the first season I coached Wigan I never realised how important this trophy was. In Australia and New Zealand the knockout format didn’t exist.

So in that first season when we were knocked out at Oldham in the first round, I was not prepared for the backlash I copped from every man and his dog.

The town went into what I can only say, was mourning! They were devastated.

Fortunately during my next two seasons as coach at Wigan we went on to win at Wembley both years, and I was forgiven.

They were special moments in my career and it’s near impossible to think back and find something else as thrilling.

John will feel exactly the same from his experience and I know he will have the Bulls up and ready for what is needed.

He will have spent much of this week's preparation telling them that while this Challenge Cup experience is something extra special, you have to take it one step at a time and win each match you are drawn to play.

Seems to me the RFL have given the Super League teams a free ride into the business end of this Cup and I think in some ways they have devalued the fans' excitement and opportunities.

Teams from the lower divisions have every chance to knock out some of the game's high-flying clubs in these one-off games.

But the way it’s set up at the moment, the top glamour clubs don’t have the blowtorch on them in the early stages.

But anyhow, it is what it is, and our Bulls just have to get on with it and make sure they win.

Each step is only 80 minutes to stay on the ladder and keep climbing. Miss a step and it’s a very long wait until the next one.