Robbie primed and ready for emotional return to Bradford
Former team-mates Jamie Langley and Robbie Paul are looking forward to renewing old friendship and rivalry when Bradford Bulls face Leigh Centurions in a Carnegie Challenge Cup fifth round tie at Grattan Stadium on Friday night.
The match sees Paul makes a sentimental return to Bradford, for whom he played a starring role in five Challenge Cup finals, with his new club, in-form Co-operative Championship title-chasers Leigh.
The Kiwi will start the match at half-back and though Bulls loose forward Langley will miss out through injury, the pair are relishing the Cup duel.
Paul last played at Grattan Stadium last September as a member of the Salford team thrashed 44-18 in Engage Super League and admits he thought that match was his last at the famous old stadium.
“I never expected to play again at Odsal but it will be great to go back,” he said. “Bradford will always be very close to my heart because I had 12 successful years at the club.
“There are only a handful of players still around who were team-mates in my last season as a Bull in 2005 with Andy Lynch and Jamie Langley the only real survivors.”
Paul has played in six Challenge Cup finals – five for Bradford and one with Huddersfield – winning two.
His elder brother Henry was man of the match when Bradford beat Leeds 24-16 at Murrayfield in 2000 while he picked up the Lance Todd Trophy for his hat-trick in the Bulls’ 40-32 defeat by St Helens in 1996.
Even though Paul will be making another trip down Nostalgia Lane, the Bradford trip isn’t the tie he would have chosen.
“I’d have liked to have been paired with the Bulls but at home,” he said. “We would have had our best ever crowd but will just have to go to Odsal to pull off one of the competition’s biggest ever shocks.
“There’s always unpredictability in sport and surprises can happen but I wish we’d been playing them earlier in the season before Bradford’s new half-backs Matt Orford and Brett Kearney had settled in.
“They have hit top form recently and clearly it’s going to be a tough one for us.”
England forward Langley, 26, refuses to write off Leigh and says:”We all saw what Barrow did to Castleford in the last round and there will be no complacency from us.
“I’ve never played in a Challenge Cup final and that is still one of my big ambitions.
“I was still an Academy player when we beat Leeds in 2000 and was only a squad member at Cardiff three years later.
“It was still awesome to be part of the experience and I’m sure Robbie will enjoy his day back at Odsal.
“He was a great role model for me when I first came to the club and I couldn’t believe how quick he was. He always worked exceptionally hard and was a real handful in training so I felt sorry for the opponents!”
Langley’s father John played in three finals for Leeds between 1968 and 1972 but Jamie said: “I wasn’t born until 1983 and have only heard stories about those games so it would be superb to emulate his achievement.”
Paul has been there and done it, of course, but which is his best memory?
Unsurprisingly he singles out his Wembley bow when he became the first player to score three tries in a Wembley final in 1996.
“That was a special occasion because, I suppose, that day made my career but 2003 was memorable because we were under the cosh against Leeds but held on to win by two points,” he said.
“There is nothing like the magic of the Challenge Cup and I hope Leigh can conjure up some more on Friday.”
Tickets for the Carnegie Challenge Cup fifth round tie, Bradford Bulls versus Leigh Centurions, on Friday May 7 (8.00) cost just £10 (£5 concessions) for standing and £12 (£6) for seating and area available from the Bradford Bulls Ticket Office on 08448 711 490.
Junior season ticket holders are entitled to free entry.
Tickets for the 2010 Carnegie Challenge Cup Final at Wembley on Saturday August 28 start from £21 and can be purchased from the RFL Ticket Office on 0844 856 11 13 or by visiting www.carnegiechallengecup.co.uk