TODAY we begin the first in a six-part serialisation of the autobiography of rugby league legend Robbie Hunter Paul
AS we piled up the wins, my own future at Bradford Bulls came under discussion.
I was contracted through to 2006 and had not looked beyond that date.
But when Huddersfield quietly emerged on the radar, David McKnight, my manager, trotted out his usual line that you should always be willing to have a conversation with people.
It transpired that Jon Sharp, the Giants coach, saw me playing for him in the halves at Huddersfield. That possibility certainly excited me.
Although I lived in Mirfield, a short distance away, it is fair to say initially that it was not a club that I saw myself at.
They made me a two-year offer. Jon also spoke about the potential of me joining the coaching staff there.
That did not really interest me, but potential scope to get involved on the administration side at some point did.
I was apprehensive at the thought of leaving, but my position was clarified by Nobby (Bulls coach Brian Noble), who had been discussing my future with Jon, who was then his Great Britain assistant.
Nobby was honest: “If you stay at Bradford, you’re going to have to continue to play at hooker.
“We can’t get rid of Iestyn Harris. He’s been too big an investment. Paul Deacon has solidified his position.
“The only position for you in 2006 is chopping and changing with Ian Henderson at No9.”
As with several others, I now knew that my future lay elsewhere and, like them, it only fuelled the fire to end on a high.
The odds favoured a St Helens-Leeds Grand Final, as the top two finishers, and were stacked against us.
It was a circuitous route to Old Trafford, but we easily beat London Broncos and then Hull 71-0 at home, after which John Kear, their coach, said: “I’ve a couple of quid in my pocket and I’m going to put it on Bradford.”
A trip to Knowsley Road followed to face a St Helens team who had won the League Leaders’ Shield but finished second best to us on the night.
A late drop goal by Deacs (Paul Deacon) and a Shontayne Hape try from a floated pass by Iestyn proved just enough for us to make Old Trafford for the fifth year running.
The news about me going to Huddersfield was out by then. The Grand Final was to be my 305th and last game for the Bulls at the age of 29.
Nobby said at the traditional Monday final press conference at Old Trafford: “Because he’s a Kiwi international, what people forget about Robbie is that he’s a product of our system. He’s a superstar bred in Britain.
“He’s given this club a big profile and won us a hell of a lot of big games. When Robbie runs at defenders he can still burn them.
“The last couple of years he’s had a lot to contend with, but he’s ready to perform. Sometimes in life it’s right to move on.”