They were the champion team that created a coaching dynasty.
The 1997 Bradford Bulls were the last side to lift the Super League title by finishing first, with the Grand Final era beginning the season after.
And seven of those Old Trafford showpiece events have been won by coaches from that Bulls group, while a further four were beaten finalists.
In addition, four Challenge Cups, four League Leaders’ Shields and four World Club Challenge triumphs came from coaches that were part of that squad.
In the NFL they call it a coaching tree, and the top of this one would be Australian guru Brian Smith, who left the Bulls at the end of the 1996 season.
It was the following year’s group that was awash with future head coaches under Smith’s successor Matthew Elliott, creating a legacy that continued long after he departed.
Elliott’s assistants were Brian Noble and Mick Potter, who would both go on to coach at the very top of the sport.
In Elliott’s squad was the likes of Brian McDermott, Steve McNamara, Paul Anderson, who would all be Super League and national head coaches and lift a host of trophies between them, with McDermott the most successful boss of the summer era.
There was also future Bulls coach James Lowes, current Rochdale boss Matt Calland – who won a Championship title at Halifax – and Warren Jowitt, who led Dewsbury to an historic undefeated league campaign in 2009.
Mike Forshaw became a respected rugby union coach at Sale, Nathan Graham is currently in charge of Scotland and a host of others led teams at various levels both here and Down Under.
Noble said: “A lot of the credit has to go to the structures that first Brian Smith and then Matthew Elliott implemented.
“They broke the game down into very small parts and recruited young and intelligent players.
“There was a lot of attention to detail , and you were really encouraged to think about the game yourself.”
Noble admits that some of that squad took him by surprise by going onto have successful coaching careers at the top.
He said: “I never thought Brian McDermott would or even Paul Anderson at the time, although I’m not sure why because I was a front rower myself.
“There are always some that surprise you, but the biggest one for me was one that didn’t become a coach, and that was Graeme Bradley, although he had a short spell at Oldham.
“Of all the players in that team he was a genius in terms of thinking about the game, he was a head coach out on the field.
“He won’t mind me saying this but ‘Penguin’, as we all knew him, had an opinion on everything and I think that got the better of him.
“He would challenge every single person at every stage of everything you did, and maybe that took too much energy out of people.”
Danny Peacock, Glen Tomlinson and Michael Withers all coached in Australia, while Bernard Dywer became Noble’s assistant when he took over from Elliott and took the Bulls to the next level.
Paul Medley has been a successful junior boss, while a host of signings that followed and played under Noble also became coaches including Lee Radford, Scott Naylor, Leon Pryce and Paul Deacon.
Noble added: “A lot of the groundwork was done by Brian Smith and Matthew Elliott built on that.
“I think the way they worked formed a skeleton system for everybody else’s coaching careers, although everyone has their own way of wanting to play the game.
“It was quite a dynasty in the end.”
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