JULIEN RINALDI is confident he can make the step up from Manly Sea Eagles’ reserves when he makes his Bradford Bulls debut in tonight’s Super League clash at St Helens.
The 30-year-old French international was forced to take a sabbatical from Super League after being squeezed out at Harlequins at the end of last season and he jumped at the chance to answer an SOS call from beleaguered Bulls boss Steve McNamara.
The former Catalans half-back or hooker arrived in England on Monday night and goes straight into the Bradford side after just two training sessions with his new teammates.
"Everything has happened so quickly," he said. "I’m a bit tired during the day but it’s fine. I have to do the job straight away. It’s a case of being professional and getting the attitude right.
"This is my job, this is what I want to do. All the boys have made me really welcome and we’ve had good training this week."
Bradford, who have not won at Knowsley Road for four years, are still reeling from their 58-22 home defeat by Warrington which plunged them to second bottom of the table and McNamara is hoping the arrival of the talented Frenchman can provide a timely lift.
"It is a big ask but he has been playing in Australia on the Sunshine Coast and he is very keen to make an impression back in Super League," he said.
"Obviously we have been desperately short of cover in our half-backs."
Although Rinaldi’s arrival is a welcome boost, the Bulls have suffered another major injury blow with the news Bradford’s highly promising former Newsome Panthers centre Jason Crookes will miss the rest of the season with cruciate ligament damage.
Crookes, who turned 19 on Tuesday and made his Super League debut last month, hurt his knee in the Bulls’ defeat at Wakefield on Easter Monday and an MRI scan yesterday confirmed his worst fears.
"Jason is a young player who had just got himself on the edge of the first team having made three appearances, and it’s very disappointing," said Bradford coach Steve McNamara. "He was providing us with good cover and trying to establish himself in our first team."
Leeds, meanwhile, aim to stay in touch with Saints when they meet Harlequins at Headingley tonight.
Stand-off Danny McGuire makes his 200th appearance for the Rhinos, while centre Keith Senior will be hoping to celebrate his 33rd birthday in style.
Quins hooker Ben Kaye is hoping to make a third appearance against his former club alongside fellow Headingley old boys Mat Gardner, Danny Ward and Jason Golden.