THIRTY-TWO points scored, 169 conceded. Four defeats from four. Play-off chances over.

As months from hell go, July has been right up there for Bulls.

They went into it with a bit of confidence, having won five of Mark Dunning’s first seven games in interim charge, including away successes at Whitehaven, Widnes and Sheffield.

And though Leigh crushed them at Odsal at the start of July, that was to some extent expected, as the Centurions look set to romp back into Super League at the first time of asking.

But since Dunning took over permanently on July 7, Bulls have produced three unforgivable performances.

They were spineless defensively at Newcastle, somehow conceding over 50 points against a side in 10th place.

Visiting London Broncos were on the back foot when Bradford pulled the scores level early in the second half the following week, but then the hosts let that momentum evaporate spectacularly to lose 30-12.

And in a must-win game against Barrow last time out, Bulls didn’t show up, mauled 30-4 to leave themselves eight points off the play-offs with seven games to go.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The poor Bulls fans did not have much to cheer at Barrow. Picture: Tom Pearson.The poor Bulls fans did not have much to cheer at Barrow. Picture: Tom Pearson.

Mathematically, they can still qualify, realistically they have no chance.

Ordinarily, this weekend would be one of the highlights of the year for Bulls.

A trip to the Championship’s annual Summer Bash, a chance to lock horns with great rivals Halifax, and a party atmosphere in the stands.

But given how Bulls have been playing of late, and the fact that Halifax have only lost two of their last 15 games, the formbook suggests there will be more a funereal feel among the Bradford fans at Headingley on Saturday evening.

How has it gone so wrong? This was a Bulls side that finished fifth last season, having been third for much of the campaign, and one that John Kear insisted could be turned into viable promotion contenders in 2022.

But Kear is not there to oversee the job any more, leaving his post after three successive defeats in April.

The veteran head coach was criticised for his attritional style of play, with many feeling he was “past it” at the top level of rugby league.

But he is proving plenty of people wrong on that front, having rejuvenated a previously inept Widnes side.

The Vikings have won five in a row under Kear, including a sensational comeback victory at Batley last time out, to give themselves an unlikely outside shot at the Championship play-offs.

It hardly seems fair to blame Dunning either. I admit I did wonder, with him not being a head coach before, whether he had the necessary experience for a job as demanding as Bulls.

But if he does want a wise head to turn to, who knows exactly what this job is like, he couldn't ask for a much better sounding board than current club consultant Brian Noble.

Besides, as I said, Dunning had those five wins from his first seven games in interim charge, an impressive record, which makes the recent drop-off even more inexplicable.

And besides, these players weren’t performing under Kear, yet look at him now, another sign that this runs deeper than who is in the hotseat.

These are not bad players though. The majority were here last term as Bulls largely did a good job, and the likes of Tom Doyle and Ebon Scurr have rightfully been tipped to have a future in Super League.

Is it, like prop Ant Walker said earlier this week, simply that Bulls have fallen into a losing habit and cycle, and somehow have to find a way out?

Walker also insisted that Bulls are working harder on fitness than ever before, and Dunning has also bristled at any claims that the players are not in shape, both claiming that is only mentioned if the side lose a game.

Recruitment and retention was brought up at the fans’ forum the other week, with Bulls openly admitting they need to do better on that front for 2023.

That perhaps doesn’t reflect well on Bulls’ winter signings, and also maybe shows regret for the ones they missed, like former half-back Joe Keyes, who is flying currently at Fax.

You do wonder if uncertainty is playing on the players’ minds. Bulls are still waiting to find out their playing budget for 2023, and have already seen Ben Evans and Dan Fleming announce their departures.

If you don’t know where your future lies, that can only negatively affect you on the pitch.

Club CEO Jason Hirst has admitted the need for Bulls to communicate better and be more transparent, which is a huge positive.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Jason Hirst's openness is a step in the right direction for Bulls.Jason Hirst's openness is a step in the right direction for Bulls.

The club were open enough at the forum to address some financial issues, like how they need the stock car partnership to continue at Odsal, how one Championship team is getting five times more funding from central resources than them this term, and how the desire to keep the academy running is taking its toll financially.

It was certainly a start, but we are not there yet. Bulls made a big noise about world-class candidates being in the running for the head coaching job this summer, and while Hirst’s point about not breaking their trust for the future made sense, it is still unusual practice in rugby league to not know of any candidate in the running (other than Dunning).

Plus, rightly or wrongly, chairman Nigel Wood has plenty of detractors within the Bulls fanbase.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Bulls chairman Nigel Wood has his doubters within the fanbase.Bulls chairman Nigel Wood has his doubters within the fanbase.

He wants the club to play in a fantastic new stadium, he is a boyhood fan, and he is determined to keep the club in Bradford.

These are all great things, but fans still have many unanswered questions for him.

Everyone has a right to privacy, Wood being no exception, but being a little more open might even allow the chairman to ease the fears of those who do still view him with suspicion over things like finances and motives.

Hirst has said Bulls will never accept coasting, but if Bulls do have to consolidate in the short-term and accept their position as a mid-table Championship side on a tight budget for now, that is okay to admit, better that than to go through the financial traumas that caused them to go under in 2017.

It is that uncertainty about where Bulls are going that seems to be driving many Bulls fans to distraction at the moment.

Being transparent and open will only help, otherwise divisions will continue to grow.