Bradford Bulls’ Challenge Cup triumph over rivals Leeds was made all the more remarkable by the presence of a host of part-time players in their team – including swimming instructor Rowan Milnes and window cleaner Matty Storton.
The talented duo are among the latest crop of players off the Bulls’ prolific youth development conveyor-belt, and have already been earmarked for full-time deals.
In the meantime they are playing key roles in Bradford’s revival alongside their day jobs, with coach John Kear full of praise for both players’ attitudes on and off the field.
Milnes is a gifted half-back whose nerveless goal kicking and shrewd playmaking were integral in the Bulls’ memorable win over the Rhinos.
Kear said: “His effect on Saturday’s game can be measured by the fact that he kicked four goals from four, made 25 tackles with no misses and assisted three tries, one with a kick and two with passes.
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“For a young man of 19 making his way in the sport is a monumental effort in what was the biggest game of his life.
“I first became aware of him when I joined the club because he was featuring very prominently in the under-19s.
“We invited him to train with the first team and he just had such an element of confidence ad composure about him that I thought he was a special talent.
“But he has his feet firmly on the ground – I’ve met his mum and dad and they make sure that’s the case.
“They know full well he could be a real top quality player of the future but there’s also areas he needs to work on and he wants to get that assistance to help his development.”
Back rower Storton first impressed Kear in pre-season ahead of the current campaign – and after a handful of first team appearances last season is now a regular in the Bulls line-up.
Kear said: “Matty is ready for first team football full stop – how I rationalise that is you select him and then forget about him, in the nicest possible way.
“You don’t worry about whether this is one of his good weeks, or whether he’ll be switched on properly, because he is already so consistent.
“He’s tough and a physically big kid, which allows him to handle the physical rigours of the game.
“The weight he lifts in the gym for a 20-year-old man is phenomenal. He’s one of those players that when the opposition carry the ball into collision with him, they stop – that’s the impact he has physically.
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“But he’s tough mentally as well, and no respecter of reputations. He couldn’t give a monkey's whether he’s playing against Wally Lewis or the Hemel Stags stand-off, he treats everybody the same.”
Kear’s next task is now holding onto Milnes and Storton, with Super League attention seemingly inevitable.
The coach added: “They are two really good young players who I look forward to being at Bradford for a number of years.
“They’ve both taken on board everything we’ve thrown at them and have a confidence, but not an arrogance about them.
“We’re speaking to both about looking to get them on full-time contracts, and if we do that then their development will come on further – it will benefit them now and in the long-term.”
Club: Bradford Bulls
Amateur clubs: West Bowling/Siddal
First team appearances: 12
Club: Bradford Bulls
Position: Back row
Amateur clubs: Dudley Hill/West Bowling
First team appearances: 18