Romano Group Seagulls prop Damian Sironen has taken an unexpected mid-season opportunity to accept a contract to play for famous British club Bradford Bulls under former Manly head coach Geoff Toovey for the rest of the 2017 season.
The 24-year-old, who won premierships with Newcastle and St George Illawarra in the NSW Intrust Cup in 2015-16, will depart immediately to take up has role at Odsal Stadium, the scene of many Test match battles.
The Bulls, the super powers of the English Super League in the early 2000s, had fallen on hard financial times in recent years and now play in the second-tier competition, the Kingston Press Championship.
However, the club – under new management and a consortium that includes former New Zealand, Queensland and Manly coach Graham Lowe – intend on rebuilding and pushing for promotion to Super League.
The Bulls were Super League champions in 2001, ‘03 and ’05, runners-up in 1999, 2002, ’04 and ’07 and Challenge Cup winners in 2000 and 2003.
Sironen revealed the opportunity with the Bulls came from a recommendation of former Australian coach Tim Sheens, now at Hull Kingston Rovers.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity to play for such a famous club, at an exciting time as it tries to rebuild from the tough time it has had,” Sironen said.
“It came out of the blue. I was fortunate to be referred to the Bulls by Tim Sheens. I’d spoken to him last year about coming to Hull KR and that didn’t eventuate but apparently he was speaking at someone at Bradford who were looking for forwards and mentioned me.
“It was a tough decision, and I’m disappointed to be leaving the Seagulls mid-season again (after taking an offer to join the Newcastle Knights in 2015) but the opportunity is too good to say no to.
“It’s been a testing couple of months, with injuries I’ve suffered and the way we have been playing, but I appreciate very much what the club and ‘Zimmo’ (coach Aaron Zimmerle) have done for me and allowing me to try to further my career with the opportunity in England.
“I wish the boys all the best for the rest of the season. They’ve shown they can mix it with the best teams in the competition.”