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NOW BULLS CHARGE TO FULL HOUSE; Sheffield Eagles 12 Bradford Bulls 32.

Bradford can kick on to become Rugby League legends in a fortnight's time - and that's no Bull.

Steve McNamara and his band duly marched to Super League glory on Saturday night.

Now they want their place in history as the first side to win every championship game in a season.

Loose forward McNamara's six goals and a late try blitz from the Bradford mean machine had sealed their first title for 16 years after the stubborn Eagles kept them in check for 68 minutes.

Odsal will really let its hair down on Friday night when the Bulls receive the Super League trophy before the home game with Paris.

But that 100 per cent record is now tantalisingly within their reach after Bull power has mangled the rest of Super League.

Bradford - Yorkshire's first title winners for 11 years - are now just three games away from achieving a feat that may never be repeated.

The Eagles' scalp was win No 19, with Paris, Wigan and the London Broncos left to play. "We were reluctant to talk about a 100 per cent record at first, but after we won our first 10 or 11 games it began to dawn on us that something special could be achieved," said McNamara.

"It would be fantastic to be going for the record against the Broncos at The Stoop on the last day of the League season. What a way to finish!

"The match would not just lift the profile of the Bradford club but Rugby League in general, especially in the capital.

"It's been a long and hard slog but now the record is so close and we have the chance to make history. We have to try to stay focused for our remaining games despite the title celebrations."

The Bulls have proved themselves the best and most consistent side in Britain - despite the blip of their Wembley defeat to St Helens and the chastening experience of the world club championship, when they failed to win a pool game. There have been several pivotal victories for the Odsal powerhouses, but McNamara points to the big win over Saints in May just a week after Wembley as the most important 80 minutes of their season.

"It was a desperately disappointing day at Wembley because so many people had expected us to win.

"And if we had lost that Super League game to them there would have been a danger of our season falling apart.

"We knew we had to get a result and we played superbly that night. And it was Saints' season that began to come off the rails after that."

McNamara, a pounds 125,000 signing from Hull last year, admits that Bradford would have been one of the last clubs he would have joined until the Bulls phenomenon took hold in late 1995.

"A few years ago Bradford was an unfashionable club with a reputation for dull football and legendary bad weather.

"But the club has been transformed within two years - helped enormously by summer rugby - and now this is the place to be. Now we have to kick on from here and not be one-season wonders. With the profile of champions and hopefully more money coming in the club we can attract more top players and dominate the honours for seven or eight years like Wigan did.

"But to do that we also need to concentrate on our youth development and copy the Australian example.

"That means starting with kids in their early teens so that by the time they turn professional they are ready for senior football.

"At the moment Bradford have not got enough quality youngsters coming through."

McNamara paid tribute to the Bulls' huge army of fans, who made the game at Sheffield into a virtual home match.

"The buzz at Bradford is simply tremendous and similar to Hull in the early eighties when they had so many great players.

"But the big difference is that our spectator base is so much younger than Hull's was at the time and that has to be important for the future.

"Our support home and away has been incredible and has lifted us all the way through.

"We had set out to win the title from day one. Our preparation last season was limited because several players - like myself, James Lowes, Stuart Spruce and Glen Tomlinson - only arrived half way through.

"But with a full off-season together we knew we had a big chance."

McNamara refuses to let the Bulls' world club championship slump take the edge off a great season.

"We have come a long way down the track but the world club games have shown us how far we still have to go," he added.

"We should have won two of our three home games in Pool A but the defeat in Auckland was a real shocker. I didn't think any side could do that to us.

"So many players tuned in their worst performances of the season and mistakes that you can get away with back home were punished heavily.

"But we have the chance to make amends in the quarter-final in Auckland in October.

"Every side goes through a bad patch and ours came in the world club championship.

"But we bounced back from both three-week sections with important wins over Leeds at Headingley and Odsal.

"That speaks volumes for the character and professionalism of the side and how much we work for each other."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Richards, Martin
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 18, 1997
Words:907
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