Bradford scrum-half Jordan Lilley has praised teammate and lifelong friend Sam Hallas on his leadership skills within the side.
The pair have, to a certain extent, mirrored each other’s careers, coming through the amateur ranks at Stanningley, before going on to play for Leeds Rhinos and eventually linking up again at the Bulls.
Hallas has made such an impact since joining John Kear’s side four years ago, that he was made vice-captain ahead of the 2020 season.
That’s a big responsibility to put on the shoulders of someone aged just 23 but Lilley insists he wasn’t surprised by the decision.
“He’s been given that role because he’s a real leader within the team and shows that on the field,” he said. “He’s the first one to cart the ball up, he’s the first one to make a tackle and is the first one into every fight.
“He wears his heart on his sleeve, though, and is a real pleasure to have in the team. He’s an asset to have and adds a lot.
“There’s a lot of young lads who look up to him and when he’s setting that example with what he does on the field, it’s good for the young lads to see. Even me – if I see Sam doing something good I want to follow it up and do the same.
“I was at Stanningley with him and Ashton (Golding), then we went to Leeds together, then me and Ashton stayed at Leeds and Sam went to Bradford, and then I ended up going to Bradford. So we’ve just kind of followed each other.
“We’ll always be lifelong friends. We don’t see each other every day but you don’t need to talk to your pals every day to know they’ll have your back. We’ve still got that really tight friendship and we always will.”
Bradford’s well-publicised financial issues meant they entered 2020 with a thinner squad than most of their rivals, a third of which was made up of players aged 21 or under.
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In addition to that, only seven of their squad are over age 25, meaning several typically ‘younger’ players, including Lilley, have had to step up into more senior roles.
That doesn’t phase him though, and not least because of how much time he’s already spent in the professional ranks.
“I’ve always been a vocal character and loud – I’m a halfback, I have to be bossy sometimes,” the 23-year-old added. “I’ve had to take on a senior role within the team because we have a lot of young lads and sometimes they need that person to guide them and help them.
“Even though I am young, I think this is my seventh (first team) season so in a sense I have kind of been around the block. I consider myself as trying to be a senior player and always will try to help people.”