Bradford Bulls are used to taking on the likes of Leeds Rhinos, Wigan Warriors and St Helens in Grand Finals at this time of year.
But they are still languishing in the Championship after they lost to Toulouse Olympique in the Championship semi-finals.
After this Bradford Bulls CEO, Jason Hirst has shared his thoughts on the club’s progress these last 12 months.
“Although the frustration and hurt of our season finishing a week earlier than it could have done is still personally present, I have since been reminded, both internally and externally of the success we’ve had, both on and off the field these last 12 months.
“On the field we’ve made great progress in finishing 3rd and making the Elimination Play-Off Semi-Finals, following a disappointing 9th placed finish in 2022. From speaking to numerous supporters, I’m led to believe those achievements surpassed most people’s expectations, although we always internally aimed for a top 4 finish. The reality is that we’ve just finished the season as the highest League placed semi-professional League placed club in the land.
“In doing so, we’ve undoubtedly given our loyal, appreciated fan base something to once again believe and trust in and get behind. Please be assured that although the season has ended the rebuild of an improved Bradford Bulls is only just beginning. Our recruitment and particularly retention process is well underway with more of both to follow, once negotiations are complete. That will see us begin 2024 with a more settled squad and a much lower turnover of players compared to recent seasons. That was always an aim from the beginning of the season just ended and I’ve no doubt that it will bear fruit as we target a successful start to the 2024 season.
“That on-field success has been borne out of an extremely unified and collective team effort, with all the names of those who’ve contributed too numerous to mention here. I would, however, like to mention and thank Lee Greenwood and club legend, Brian Noble for their considerable contribution and expertise in underpinning it all.
“Of all the things we’ve achieved this last year, the “we’re all in it together, for the same ultimate reason” mentality that now exists throughout the club is right up there as one of the most significant and pleasing contributing factors to our improved club performance.
“Off the field we continue to improve in many, many ways. One example is our ever widening community reach and engagement, which again, is a real team effort, superbly led by the Bradford Bulls Foundation under the stewardship of their CEO, Chris Chamberlain. Another example is our ever expanding portfolio of club sponsors, who I thank all, very much, with numerous additional ones secured for 2024, which is testament to the efforts of our Commercial Manager, Ian Stafford and again, others too numerous to mention here.
“I’d also like to publicly thank independent supporters’ groups, Squad Booster and BullBuilder for their sterling efforts in raising funds for 1st Team Recruitment and our Elite Academy, respectively, as well as all our staff and volunteers, both at Odsal and our Tong training base, for their part in enabling us to continue to run 9 teams as a part-time Championship club.
“Talking of our Academy, another highlight from the last 12 months, was us regaining our Elite Academy Licence, which was testament to many at the club, not least, our Head of Youth, Ryan Hunkin and Gareth Pickles, our Youth and Academy Director.
“So, on reflection, all in all it’s been a great season for our proud club.
“Moving back to next season, we’ll once again come up against teams who are likely to be full-time and who’ll undoubtedly have greater spending power than us, due to cash rich owners and parachute payments. So, if there’s anyone out there who can and would like to specifically support the club’s Board of Directors in terms of player signings or indeed potentially joining the Board, then please don’t hesitate to contact me. With Debb Sorra, Paul Wild and myself becoming Director’s, alongside Nigel Wood, these last 12 months, we’ve undoubtedly strengthened as a leadership group and we all remain keen to bring in additional Board members, expertise and investment to the club. To do so, would undoubtedly increase our chances of continued improvement and success, as we target a return to Super League at the earliest opportunity.”