So the Bears play hosts to Bradford Bulls tomorrow.
Along with some 600-700 travelling supporters, by all accounts.
Which begs the question, when was the last time that many visiting fans journeyed to the BPA across either codes?
Perhaps when Cov enjoyed a crowd of 2700 for the visit of Moseley the season before last, although I doubt if the Mose support ever quite totalled 700 plus on that day?
It certainly didn’t seem like it.
So if not Moseley, then I imagine we’re going well back into ’00s when Cov were last in the Championship – maybe the relegation play-offs or for the ‘Quins or Bedford games?
With crowds at the Bears’ averaging around the 400, expectations are that for the game against the Bulls it will be something approaching 4x that number and, with the weather set fair, it could well be even greater.
The Bears are certainly prepared for the occasion with a full day of activities planned to celebrate what has been dubbed ‘The Battle of the Beasts’…
…the Bears vs the Bulls.
And fair play to the Bears, those involved in the marketing of the club have done a fantastic job cranking up the interest over the past few weeks and the artwork involved in the adverts that have been winging their way across the ether promoting the game is top drawer:
…although I have to say, the bull looks somewhat more bellicose than the bear, which to me seems rather more contemplative to be honest.
And no wonder really, given that the table suggests it’s something of a mismatch – with Bradford Bulls currently heading League 1 with 13 wins in 14 games with the Bears 12th and a record which almost exactly mirrors that of the Bulls, 12 losses in 13 games.
But sport often throws up a few shocks every now and again and despite being underdogs, Bears will presumably be treating this as their cup final, a one-off game in front of what will be a loud and enthusiastic crowd…
…the battle of the beasts, only this time the bear won’t be chained to a ragged staff.
The BPA will be rockin’ from the kick off and whilst no one expects the Bears to come out on top after 80 minutes, maybe the home side can at least surprise the visitors with their intensity and passion.
Quite simply, if you can’t raise your game for the visit of the league leaders and a side that was World Club Challenge winners as recently as 2006, well when can you?
I’m ashamed to admit I’m something of a lapsed Bears’ fan, having watched most of the home games in their first couple of seasons and then drifting away from league rugby altogether, only to return again this season for the last four home games.
Hands up, I’m definitely something of a Jonny-come-lately but every club needs to attract its lapsed supporters, something Cov has shown signs of doing over the last few months.
Truth be known, it was the interest even back in March and April about this fixture that first fired my re-interest in the Bears – had it not have been for the visit of the Bulls, the chances are I wouldn’t have started going to those earlier games once the Cov season had ended.
And even though the Bears have yet to win this season when I’ve been watching, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all 4 games, that despite the home side leaking points at an alarming rate at times.
No, the rugby’s been entertaining and the atmosphere welcoming which has made for a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon every time.
But here’s the thing – whilst I can name very few Bears’ players on show each week, it appears a relatively young squad and it’s clearly on a huge learning curve. That said, the players have never allowed their heads to drop and in three of the four games I’ve seen there have been spells in each one where the Bears have been very competitive indeed.
And although I am expecting the Bears to be second best on the day, above all else, what I am really hoping for is a Bears’ performance that shows the same commitment to the cause that I’ve seen in those other games this season.
Sorry, not hoping for – expecting.
Class will out in the end, but teams like Bradford can be made to struggle at times by an opposition playing as a team and believing in itself – you can’t ask for more than that. If I come away from the game proud of the efforts made by the boys in black, then I’ll be happy.
A few points on the board and so much the better. Pride in the badge and a willingness to put bodies on the line for their teammates, the club and the supporters and I’ll be happy.
And as we’ve already seen this season, the Bulls are by no means unbeatable.
It would be a shock – probably the biggest of the season so far – but you have to believe.
It’s what support at this level should be about. Success will follow for sure…
Bears are definitely the poorer relation in terms of their ‘partnership’/ground-share with Coventry Rugby Club, and in so many ways, but in some respects they have stolen a march on their more illustrious neighbours, especially in their use of social media.
As part of the club’s communication with its supporters, it produces a weekly podcast (the Bear Necessities, what else?) which provides plenty of behind-the-scenes news and information about the club. Why on earth Cov hasn’t done something similar in the past is beyond me. It has to be a priority for the new media men at the club this season surely?
Anyway, I digress. In this week’s podcast (an hour long special), Craig Cathcart and Dave Musson preview the game, with several interesting interviews included which certainly provide some useful background to the game and to the Bears’ season in general.
What is clear from listening to the podcast is that tomorrow’s game is something of a one-off. Yes it’s a league game with points at stake, but it is also something of a celebration too. The biggest game in the club’s history is the perfect way to recognise the 20 years the club has now been in existence and to highlight just how far the club has progressed in that relatively short time frame.
As such, it will be anything but a normal Saturday afternoon for the Bears and hopefully the players will respond to the excitement generated by all the events leading up to the kick off at 3.00 pm. It’s incumbent on them to continue to provide the same levels of entertainment on the pitch as we’ll no doubt have seen off it in the build-up to the game.
If the Adrenalin is flowing, as surely it will be, then maybe the Bears can catch the Bulls cold at the start.
As I mentioned earlier, this is the biggest game in the club’s history, their cup final.
Carpe diem and all that…
In the hours leading up to kick off there will be a TryTag mini-tournament, some Bears’ junior rugby on show, hospitality in the clubhouse, food and Craft Beers outside and from 12.30 pm onwards 4 bands playing live outside. A pretty impressive array of entertainment for a club on a shoe-string.
Hopefully a large crowd, warmed by the weather and a good supply of beverages, will add greatly to the club’s coffers. Cov did a great job in their final game of last season against Hull, pulling in 3700 fans – the Bears won’t get anything approaching those sorts of numbers but I’m sure the atmosphere will be just as good.
The club has pulled out all the stops to attract a bumper crowd and hopefully that is exactly what they will get, and deservedly so given the efforts that have clearly gone into making the day such a special one.
Listening to CC’s interview with Bull’s Mick Gledhill (Aka @TheGameCaller) via the podcast was particularly enlightening. Mick is the chap who leads the way in the live streaming of all Bradford Bull’s games and Bear Necessities caught up with him when he had come down to the BPA in advance of the game to check the facilities in readiness for tomorrow.
Mick was effusive about the ground (and the pitch!), suggesting that it puts some other clubs in League 1 ‘to shame’, believing that with the excellent management already in place at the Bears there’s no reason why the club shouldn’t prosper. That’s provided the RFL doesn’t renege on its £75,000 funding of clubs like the Bears and gives them time to continue to expand and develop.
In what was a very honest interview for Bear Necessities, he went on to say that in the past the RFL has let down clubs in terms of funding and resources, although he recognised that it wasn’t just about money; clubs like the Bears need to develop in other ways and involve the community to bring youngsters into the game and help develop the brand that way.
Far too many Rugby League clubs are crowded around the M62 corridor, so any attempt by others to expand the game into other areas of the country should be welcomed by the RFL
He was also very generous in his recognition that being part of League One was also important for the Bulls in that they had an opportunity to visit new grounds and look to see how other clubs operated and to learn from them as well. It’s very much a two-way process. The Bulls have steadied the ship now after several seasons of decline on and off the pitch and are on a much surer financial footing. With crowds around 3500-4000 every week, they are a world apart from the likes of the Bears, West Wales Raiders and Hemel Stags, but they aren’t too proud to admit that such clubs must be encouraged to thrive and prosper for the good of the game.
Gledhill feels that the live streaming of games is definitely the way forward, particularly for the Bulls and teams like them. The brand is already in place and the crowds Bulls are attracting are only 200 or so down on last season when they were relegated from the Championship, despite the streaming of all games. If you can’t get to a game, well at least you can watch it either live or at a later date via Youtube…which hopefully means that fans of both clubs unable to attend the game might still have the opportunity to watch tomorrow’s encounter at a time better suited to them.
Or to re-watch even if you were present.
If you have a spare 60 minutes or so and like me and you’re not fully cup to speed with what’s happen in Rugby League these days, then I’d strongly recommend you listen to the podcast. It’s certainly helped whet my appetite still further for tomorrow’s game and I’ll be getting there early to get the most from the pre-match activities – all provided at no extra cost, with entrance still just £12 for non-concessions.
Bulls are sure to come down to the BPA expecting the win, but they know they’ll face a Bears side intent on impressing what should be the largest crowd for a Rugby League game since the ground opened back in 2004.
Bears lost the first encounter against Bradford this season up at Odsal 52-6 and although their results have dropped off in recent weeks, I’m certainly hoping for an improvement on that scoreline, although I’m not quite sure what to expect from the league leaders to be honest.
Everyone knows bears are smart, but they can also be physical and aggressive. All three attributes are going to be needed tomorrow if the Bulls are going to be outwitted – and let’s face it, bulls aren’t known for being particularly canny, are they?
So advantage Bears from the start…
Come on you Bears.
Bears v Bulls – more than just a game, it’s a celebration.
And let’s not forget, this is Bear country – no ragged staff needed.
Unleashed and enraged, the Bears will do us proud.